Friday, February 27, 2009

Daily snack

Kettle brand Spicy Thai flavour chips: Sometimes you can get a bag of these crunchy wonders that's so intense that the ginger sting is almost painful. And I like that. These are potato chips that make you sit up and take notice. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'm here to help: Part 2

As previously discussed in last week's blog entry called "I'm here to help", not everyone is a fan of my Dish column in the National Post. I'm specifically referring to an Ottawa-area herd of elk. 
Here's the column, printed in April of last year, that almost got me sued. 

restaurants are finding partners in local farmers

Amy Rosen, National Post

"This is the first time in 20 years there's been any interest in 'local,'" says Andy Terauds, co-owner of Acorn Creek Farm. "So we finally fit in."
Terauds's farm is a 75-acre fruit-and-veg spread near Carp, Ont., and he's attending Ottawa's second annual Farmer-Chef Meet and Greet, which is basically a speed-dating event for local producers and chefs. Dreamed up by Savour Ottawa -- a joint initiative of the City of Ottawa, a non-profit organization called Just Food, Ottawa Tourism and Ontario Tourism -- the event is heating up at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. From the looks of things, a lot of people are eager to promote local culinary products.
Landing a date is not always easy, but the Ottawa chefs making the rounds today seem to have no problem hooking up with area farmers, as they ramp up for the 2008 growing season.
There are intimate whispers of micro-greens and sweet promises of heirloom tomatoes. 
Last year, Terauds's farm hooked up with Juniper restaurant, for which they provide some 55 varieties of lettuce. But they're still playing the field. So, too, Sandra Salmins of Wild Parrot Delectables, who's selling her greenhouse-grown "shoulder season" greens to several high-end Byward Market restaurants, including Domus, Eighteen and Luxe.
As for Elk Ranch -- which, last year, forged an ongoing love match with the Chateau Laurier -- well, let's just say every town needs its slut.

And then I printed a nice recipe for elk stuffed peppers.

Long story short, the Elk Ranch did not find the reference funny. In fact, they threatened a lawsuit unless I personally wrote a big feature about them. (At least they liked my writing.) Even now, I'm not sure what they were so upset about. (Who doesn't learn from her mistakes?) Did they really think I was calling their elks sluts? Can elks even be sluts?
As my editor expected, I refused to write a feature story about their farm, and my editor was also smart enough to write the apology for me, knowing I would likely make matters worse. It was printed a couple of weeks later at the bottom of my column. Here's what it said:

An apology: My column earlier this month about Ottawa's Farmer-Chef Meet and Greet contained an ill-considered joke about the popularity of Elk Ranch with local restaurants. I described the event as a date, and in noting Elk Ranch's success with the city's chefs, I took the metaphor too far. The intent wasn't to disparage or offend, and I apologize unreservedly to Elk Ranch for any offense taken.

As you can imagine, that Dish column got the most-ever hits.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fun with beets

Just look at this composed salad of roasted beets, beans, goat cheese and candied walnuts. Almost looks restaurant quality,  doesn't it? Good enough to eat, no? Well let me tell you, I ate it. And it was good enough. And then some.
I'm finishing off my last day in Palm Beach right now, and you know what? I'm just realizing that the last thing I want to do is talk beets. So I'm cutting this short. That said, if you feel like talking beets tomorrow, here's my recipe for a pretty beet salad.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Take washed, whole beets, cut off the rough root end and green top (save beet greens -- they're part of tomorrow's dinner), then wrap beets tightly in foil and roast in preheated oven for 1 - 1.5 hours, depending on size. When done, let cool for a couple of minutes then pop off the skins in the sink and wash your hands. (Note: I've always imagined that if I planned to murder someone with my bare hands I would first roast several bunches of beets; my scarlet hands providing the perfect alibi.) 
Cut beets into wedges and set aside. Get out some nuts -- walnuts, pecans, almonds; whatever you've got--put them in a small pan, sprinkle lightly with sugar and a touch of cayenne. Toast them until the sugar melts and caramelizes. Set aside to cool. 
Get out some green beans, tip their ends, and then steam them in the microwave for 3 minutes. Set aside.
Finally, get out your final ingredients: goat cheese, a little olive oil, and best quality balsamic. 
Arrange beets, beans and candied nuts around salad plate. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and a whisper of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with some sea salt, or even better, Maldon. Crumble goat cheese overtop. 
It's as pretty as a picture and tastes as sly as the Mona Lisa. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'm here to help

Because of my cookbooks, my Dish recipe column in the National Post, and now this blog, I get daily emails from people asking food-minded questions and sharing their culinary successes. 
And then there are the e-yellers, like the lady who e-shouted at me for printing a Penticton summer corn soup recipe in my column, out of season. (I try to cover Canada as equally as possible -- who said she had to make the damn soup that day?) 
But mostly, I'm  here to help. To offer ideas, answers and encouragement. Like the man from Vancouver, who, although a self-professed "very novice" cook, decided to take on the intricate 48-hour pork shoulder recipe from Fuel restaurant I printed in my column. That little exchange consisted of no fewer than a dozen back and forths. And I practically had to beg him not to substitute almond extract for almond oil. 
But it's the email exchanges like the one below that really make me smile:

Dear Ms Rosen,
I just clipped your "Historic Fish Soup" recipe from the National Post. One of the ingredients is "prepared soup stock". I'm a bit of a culinary idiot; how much stock? 4 cups? Six? I am also a kosher vegetarian, so I can't use, say, canned (shudder) chicken stock, or even homemade chicken stock. What chemical (i.e. flavoured MSG) should I use to make stock? Beef, consomme, or onion?
Sorry to ruin your recipe, but I'd really like to try it!
Best wishes,
L.R.C (name abbreviated to protect the innocent)

Dear L,
These aren't actually my recipes: I just report on them. That said, I can see where your confusion may lay. I just looked up the recipe again, and the "prepared soup stock" is actually step #1 of the recipe, where, in essence, you're making a fish stock by covering those ingredients with water. So no need to add any other stock.
Hope that clears things up.

Hi again,
So the "water to cover" will provide enough liquid (won't cook down) to add a "ladleful" to the roux? 
If it's not edible, do I blame you, the recipe author, or me?

Everything goes back into the pot in the end so there's no loss of the ladleful. 
Um, you can blame yourself, or historic Louisbourg.

IT'S YUMMY! And I'll give you the credit!

Ah, warms the cockles, doesn't it?
Next week, we'll take the opposite tact, when I tell you about the time I was almost sued by a herd of elk. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Trick of the day

I've been eating a lot of apples lately, and this handy gizmo has made the job a whole lot easier. Simply place it over your choice of apple, press down firmly, and in one fell swoop your snack is cored and sliced. The only thing it doesn't do is yell, "Ta daaaa!" 
Figures it's from Ikea

Monday, February 16, 2009

Parsnip and apple soup

I'm just realizing that I haven't done a soup recipe on this blog yet. Crazy talk! I love soup. Eat the stuff all the time. Some of my best friends are soup.
I don't usually order it in restaurants though, because I feel a bit ripped off when I do -- unless there's the promise of a prize, like a giant seared scallop or a panko-crusted egg swimming around in there.
Back at home, my soups usually amount to rifling through the fridge and seeing what's on the south side of fresh. On a good day this could mean a warming pot of broccoli and cheddar, on a bad day, beet greens and tofu. 
Last week I had a good day with some apples and parsnips, and I have to say, it's a combo I'd never tried before and can't imagine why. It makes for a light pureed soup with a sweetly earthy flavour.
I'm filing this one under "tasty happenstance". (Sorry about the lame pic. Soup is hard to photograph!)
(serves 4)
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 cooking onion, chopped
3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
4 Macintosh apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp maple syrup
splash of white wine or vermouth
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
garnishes (optional): fried (store bought) shallots, chopped parsley, and/or a dollops of yoghurt. 
Heat oil and butter in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute for several minutes. Add parsnips, carrot and celery and saute for several minutes more. Add apple, nutmeg, cinnamon and syrup and cook together for another minute or so. Add a splash of white wine, stir, add stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a half hour, or until veggies and apples are soft. 
Get out an immersion (hand) blender and puree soup in the pot. Or, let soup cool slightly and puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, bring back to a simmer in the pot, and serve hot, topped with the aforementioned garnishes of your choosing.  

Friday, February 13, 2009


When you've been friends for as long as Joanna and me (since we were 10), you get to know each others' food likes and dislikes while also sharing in common tastes. For instance, last month we went for Chinese on Spadina -- we can do this with two people because we like the same dishes. But when she was dropping me back home, Jo tried to pawn these candied almonds with lemon zest off on me. She said she wanted them out of her van because she was addicted, plus she thought I'd love them. I tried one: "Yuck."
She looked surprised by my reaction, mostly shocked really, then sighed: "A rare miss." 
Still, when I told her I was taking her out for her birthday Jo knew we'd likely hit Foxley, one of our favourites (we've nailed the perfect order.) But then she emailed me while I was away, asking if we should maybe try Scaramouche's Lobsterlicious menu before it was gone. The crazy thing is, I was going to suggest the exact same change of plan (eerie.)
Based on his support of Nova Scotia fisherfolk, chef/owner Keith Froggett struck a deal with the lobster people a couple of months ago, when lobster prices were at an historic low. And he's passing the "savings" on to Scaramouche diners, with a three course Lobsterlicous '09 meal, for $52 a head. 
Joanna and I went this week, were seated by a beautiful window on the pasta bar side of things, twinkling skyline as a backdrop and a thick fog socking in the city. And then we ate. Oh, how we ate. 
My first course was a gorgeous plate of fresh, poached shrimp (definitely not your Thai imports, these) blood oranges, persimmons and winter lettuces (watercress, frisee and the like) tossed together in a fantastic Meyer lemon and lobster vinaigrette. I could have got home happy right then. But then came my main of generous butter poached lobster perched like rubies and diamonds upon a silky cauliflower puree, with shaved fennel and a smoked bacon and butter sauce. Dinner was incredible. And so was the service. Same goes for the wine. In fact, we didn't think things could get any better, but then they did with the return of pastry chef Joanne Yolles and her famous coconut cream pie -- flaky butter crust, home-spun but high class coconut cream and whipped cream becoming one along with fresh coconut shavings. It was such a perfect capper that I almost didn't mind the white chocolate shavings on top. 
I wish I could describe what my pal Joanna had for her dinner, but I already did. Because even though there was lots of choice (three per course, plus the option of substituting with anything else you like from the main menu), we ordered the exact same meal. 
Like I said, we've been friends for a long, long time.
Scaramouche's Lobsterlicious 2009 runs Mondays to Thursdays until March 5th. Reservations a must. Knockout meal, a given. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My breakfast

Days like these call for breakfasts like this: Organic oats, non organic banana, Quebec maple syrup. 
You know you want it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This just in: France's favourite wines apparently go with everything

I don't know if you've heard, but the economy is in pretty bad shape. Which means we're eating out less and drinking more, behind closed doors. But just because we're cutting down on restaurant face time, doesn't mean we can't turn take-out into a culinary experience. 
Enter the Burgundy Wine Board (BIVB) -- a group of French grape-growers, co-operative members and wine merchants, the BIVB is offering up tips for pairing take-out with affordable, top notch Burgundy wines. 
Here are some of its recommended appellations and food pairings:
Gourmet Pizza (delivery or take-out). Try a rich red that compliments the flavours of the meat:
Red wine - Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune or Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits
White wine - Petit Chablis
Rose wine - Marsannay
Indian take-out. Try a red or white Burgundy to compliment a spicy rich curry:
Red wine - Volnay, Vosne-Romanee, Rully et 1ers Crus
White wine - Macon villages, Cotes de Beaune-Villages
Chinese take-out. Try a red or white Burgundy to complement your Chinese dish:
Red wine - Macon or Givry
White wine - Saint-Bris (the only wine in Burgundy made from the Sauvignon grape), Petit Chablis
Fried chicken (KFC or likewise). Try a red or rose which will nicely complement your fried food:
Red wine - Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune or Irancy
Rose wine - Bourgogne Rose
Sushi & Sashimi. Try a white Burgundy that will bring out the freshness of the fish:
White wine - Macon Villages, Mercurey, Montagny or Pernand-Vergelesses

Monday, February 9, 2009

How to win friends and lose teeth

It was a perfect storm of generous cottage guests: Ilona brought the Kraft Caramels, Deborah brought the apples, Erin and Kirk brought the kid (the wonderful Declan) and, being good Canadians, there was a goodly supply of Smarties in the cupboard. 
How could we not make caramel apples?
The recipe is right off the Kraft package, which, by the way, also includes the handy wooden sticks. But here's one thing the package doesn't tell you: You must eat the candy apples the day you make them, because the caramel starts to weep off of the apples overnight, leading to a sad mess come morning. Not that these will stick around that long...
Wash and dry five apples thoroughly. Insert stick into stem of each. 
Microwave 1 pkg (340g) unwrapped Kraft Caramels with 2 Tbsp water in a large glass measure or mixing bowl on High for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes or until sauce is smooth when stirred.
Dip apples into hot caramel sauce and turn until coated. Scrape off excess sauce from bottom of apples and decorate. Place on tray lined with waxed paper.
Refrigerate until serving time.
Optional: Roll in chopped peanuts, crushed Oreos, drizzle with chocolate or press in some Smarties. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Spoiler alert

I skipped out on on a couple of events during my conference in Richmond yesterday, to head to Little India in Vancouver to cook with a lovely family; part of a series of features I'm doing for Chatelaine called Cooking in Canada
So far I've made chicken soup and enchiladas with some Mexican Mennonites in Norfolk County, amazing chicken and rice, tomato salad and cheese pastries with Pamela, a charming Lebanese woman in Ottawa, next month's issue will feature a couple of the delish Vietnamese dishes that I made with Lilly in Montreal, and pretty soon, some of the gob smacking dishes that the mother and daughter duo of Swaran and Rimple taught me how to make yesterday will appear in the magazine. 
By early afternoon, our Indian feast was ready to eat.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Eat here

This is what Vancouver looked like yesterday. It was 10 degrees on the winning side of zero, mostly sunny and it felt like spring. Spring at the top of February. Love it! 
It also meant that PAJO's famous fish and chips was open for business again for the new season.
We had been enjoying a culinary tour around the historic fishing village of Steveston, which is part of Richmond, which is a suburb of Vancouver. We had brownies and tea at a lovely farm house, locally roasted coffee at a spot that sells gourmet coffee and cigars, we stopped in at an impressive Italian market and its adjoining restaurant, we had jumbo shrimp at a cool new waterfront restaurant and bar, and our last stop was PAJO's at the wharf.  Or should I say, on the wharf. Because PAJO's is a floating seafood shack. 
It's been here for decades. They fry local cod, salmon and the creme de la creme, halibut, all served in a paper cone sided by killer slaw, tartar sauce and fresh cut fries. 
This is the best fish and chips feed I've ever had. There was something to the batter -- an unidentifiable flavour that you wouldn't think would be in there, but totally works. (It's not vanilla, but it's that idea.)
And the crunch? I've never experienced anything like it; somehow soft and crunchy all at the same time.
If clouds were filled with tender fish, then battered and deep fried, this is what they'd taste like.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A bite to remember

Almost immediately after checking in at the RiverRock Casino Resort for my travel media conference in Richmond, B.C., I rushed into Vancouver proper for some extra curricular dining. First stop, sampling the new lineup of plates created by Iron Chef Rob Feenie for the Cactus Club Cafe's menus. 
Many of these dishes have appeared in some form or another on the upscale menus of Lumiere and Feenie's, and remain relatively true to form at the more masses-friendly Cactus Clubs. 
The butternut squash ravioli, hit with beurre blanc and shaved black truffle, may be the second best thing I've ever put in my mouth.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


An $8 vintage garage sale find + a bag of juicing oranges = hello sunshine!

I'm off to Vancouver today for a conference, but I mostly plan on eating and quaffing the week away. I'll also be blogging.
Stay tuned.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Labna (fresh yogurt cheese)

Remember last week, when sommeliers were the new chefs? (It was a few days after mixololgists had become the new chefs.) Well, things move fast around here because now cheese makers are the new rock stars. 
A literal example would be Alex James, the bass player for Blur. When not reuniting with the band, he lives on a UK farm with his wife and kids and is the big cheese of a mini cheese making empire called Evenlode Partnership, turning out fine firm goat cheeses and creamy blues. 
In Canada, you've got David Woods and his pressed pansy and rosemary Saltspring Island Cheese Company cheeses with their cult-like fan base. Carmelis cheese in Kelowna, where the goats wander outside while you sample from over a dozen goat cheeses and goat milk gelatos inside, also draws stadium-like crowds. Prince Edward County's Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co makes their cheeses sing using goat and sheep's milk and organic rennet. Meanwhile, you haven't lived until you've tried Fromagerie Tournevent of Chesterville's goat's milk Chevre Noir (a cheddar). 
At Niagara's Upper Canada Cheese Company, they have their own herd of Guernsey cows (groupies) for the milk, which they turn into a trio of sought after Niagara Gold, Comfort Cream and fresh ricotta cheeses. When I visited the wee factory, the head cheese maker walked me through the process and I realized that cheese making couldn't be easier. And then I thought, hey, I want to be a cheese making rock star too. 
Make this fresh yogurt cheese, and I'll let you be my roadie. 
Buy a 750 gram container of plain yogurt. (If you use low fat probiotic yogurt, it'll likely be the healthiest cheese you'll ever eat.)
Place a couple of layers of cheesecloth in a colander set over a bowl. Add the yogurt and let it drain overnight in the refrigerator. The consistency you're after is that of a soft cream cheese. (Tip: If you don't have cheesecloth, heavy duty paper towel does the trick, but change it a couple of times during the draining process.)
When ready to eat, top with a drizzle of good olive oil and some za'atar, and spread onto warm pita.