Thursday, July 17, 2014

Roots and Shoots Farm - 3rd Week of CSA Food 2014

My second CSA basket in the third week of the Roots and Shoots Farm CSA program had nine beautiful specimens.  As I worked my way through the produce, I took a quick picture on my phone of each dish I prepared. Follow along to see what happened with each item in my basket.

Basil - the next day I made a batch of basil pesto using the basil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts, salt and pepper. I was able to make three 125ml jars of pesto.  Two jars went into the freezer.

Some of the basil pesto was used in this pasta dish.  I also used some of the spring onions and the garlic scapes.

Curly Kale

The mister made a kale salad and made a lemony vinaigrette.  He topped with grated parmesan and some of our stash of toasted pine nuts.

Napa Cabbage

I made a coleslaw with the Napa cabbage.  I also used some of the spring onions. The dressing is based loosely on Bobby Flay's Creamy Coleslaw recipe.



I used the peas, broccoli and some of the spring onions and garlic scapes for this stir fry which was served over steamed rice.


This zucchini yielded 9 thin strips.  We grilled them lightly and let them cool.  Just before serving our party treats, we spread them with a soft cheese - Garlic and Fine Herbs Boursin.

Grated parmesan was heaped on top and then they went under the broiler to brown and warm up.  A great party treat.


The beets were roasted in the oven and the beet greens were set aside for another dish. When slightly cooled and peeled we used them in the ubiquitous roasted beet and goat cheese chèvre salad.  I included some greens from my friend's garden, microgreens from Butterfly Sky Farm, and some pralined pecans.  The dressing is an orange maple dressing using Kricklewood Farm's cold-pressed sunflower oil.

Spring onions

Garlic scapes

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Smitten Kitchen's Best Cocoa Brownies - To Heal The Broken Hearts

When I get bad news, my first instinct is to head to the kitchen to lose myself in a recipe. Or two. Or three.

And so it was when I got the call and the first words pretty much were, "Anne, he's gone." The gut punch.  I do the mental math and the months between our ages barely matter to any statistician.  In the sadness of it all, my own mortality blankets the scene. "It could just as easily have been me. Or my mister. Or my brother..."

I don't think I am terribly unique to find refuge in the kitchen as funeral plans are formulating around another kitchen table down the road.  The burners and ovens are blazing for the usual cast of characters.  Food that can feed plenty but also freezes well. Lasagnas, chickens, chilis, stews, casseroles.  Then there are the treats.  There is a bit of irony baking up a calorie laden, sugar and butter weighted treat on such a sorrowful occasion. But desserts are tradition.  There will be company and tea times.

So this time I hit the larder to see what I had on hand and I knew I could double up a batch of Smitten Kitchen's Best Cocoa Brownies.  Chewy, dense chocolate.  Its sweetness hidden behind the deep cocoa.  Its buttery-ness married with eggs, for a firm lava. No need for icing.

A gift for you to heal the broken hearts.  From my kitchen to yours.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet

280 grams unsalted butter
500 grams sugar
130 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
130 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Lightly grease a 9"x13" cake pan and line with parchment that continues up the sides and over the edge.  The lightly greased pan will help the parchment stay in place and not fold in on top of the batter.  The overhang of parchment will help to lift the baked brownies from the pan.

Warm the butter in a heatproof bowl to almost melting using your microwave.  Add the sugar, cocoa and salt and stir. Place the bowl over a boiling water and stir the mixture occasionally until fully incorporated and the batter is quite warm to the touch.  The batter will seem somewhat grainy.

Using an electric hand mixer add the vanilla extract.

Let the batter cool to warm.  Then add each egg one at a time and use the hand mixer to blend.

Add the flour in three batches and use the hand mixer to blend.  When all the flour has been added, mix the batter for another 45 seconds on low.

Pour half the batter in one end of the pan.  Add the chopped walnuts to the remaining batter and pour into the other end of the pan.  This way your can keep your nutty fans happy and also the not so nutty.  Even out the batter with an offset spatula.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Place on a rack to cool.  Set the cooked brownies in the fridge or freezer.  When you cut into it, you will have clean edges.  Remove the pan from the fridge or freezer and remove the brownies from the pan by lifting on the parchment.  Trim the edges and then divide into squares.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Summer Issue 2014

I broke the forbidden rule., hungry.

The Summer issue of the latest LCBO Food & Drink magazine is a companion piece for our amped up social lives during this long awaited sunny season. The chill of our long winter is a faded memory. School is out. The cottage is the main event. Parties and festivals are everywhere and we keenly try to catch up with friends.

What I like about this issue is the play on simple, easy summer staples, like hot dogs, that can feed a range of tastes from the very young to the very foodie.  One rendition shared in Hot Diggity Dogs by Christopher St. Onge gives the weiner an extra bit of pizazz with truffle mayo and garlicky mushrooms. His mashups with the Korean Chicken Wing Dog and the Balsamic-Braised Short Rib & Burrata Dog have high appeal too. Even more importantly, where did he get those stellar buns??!! Anyone?

'Fast' is the name of the game when preparing food in the summer. Heather Trim teases me with her Chicken Caprese Salad in Quick & Easy 30-Minute Marvels as I impatiently wait for my own urban garden tomato plants to bear fruit.

A favourite feature article is Robert Hercz's Food Origins. This issue he tells us all we need to know about Potato Chips. Did you know that ketchup-flavoured potato chips are a Canadian invention?  (A pretty brilliant flavour, I thought, when it hit the stores back in the day.) And the average Canadian eats 2 1/2 kilos a year - the equivalent of 60 single-serving (43-gr) bags. I'm not doing my bit so that means someone out there is having even more. This fact is a real stunner. I remember the Canadian chip enterprise Hostess, which was the chip company in Canada before Lay's (really the PepsciCo empire) bought them out in the 90's.  I also remember the short-lived flavour of Roast Chicken.

If you only read one article this time around, the most super fun piece is Nice Ice by Kristen Eppich. Besides the stylish and flavourful cubes, she shares practical tips to set you up for icy success. Use purified water and boil it first to remove the air. This will give your cubes a more professional look plus shiny bling power.

Again, their Summer issue is including Wine Country Ontario Travel Guide 2014 with its very handy Official Map of Ontario's Wine Route. A great planning tool. Put it in your car right away.

Trend spotted by cocktail lover Charlene Rooke is Ottawa's own Harvey & Vern's sodas. She highlighted other Ontario craft sodas and appears to have a thing for ginger beer. Bring on the Dark 'N' Stormy!

As a seafood lover, my 'Gotta Make' list is full of it:
  •  Lobster In A Saffron Broth with Baby Bok Choy, Tomatoes & Noodles (From Lobster Made Easy by Monda Rosenberg)
  • Smoked Salmon Tostadas (From Quick & Easy 30-Minute Marvels by Heather Trim)
  • Crab Linguine with Chili and Cilantro ( From Matchmaker - Provincial Brews by Michael Fagan)
  •  Wok-Steamed Mussels (From Oh, Canada by James Chatto & Lucy Waverman)
  • Cameroon Spiced Shrimp with Peanut Sauce (From World Cup BBQ by Marilyn Bentz-Crowley)

Plan ahead: The Autumn issue hits the stores in a little over 8 weeks on Wednesday, September 3rd.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

It's Kind of Like That Zippy Zingy East Side Mario's Salad Dressing

Look at that splendid head of romaine lettuce from my first CSA basket of the 2014 season!  It was tender and sweet, with no hint of bitterness.  The head was solid and plentiful with many well-developed leaves.

When we don't want to do the classic Caesar salad dressing with our head of romaine, we go for something more zippy and zingy.

In our DIOK days of 'double income one kid' we sometimes caved on the way home from work and dined at East Side Mario's.  Part of the attraction was their all you could eat house salad. If I recall, it had tomatoes, olives, red onions, croutons, and a peperoncini pepper or two.  The wait staff would shred the cheese on top at your table and give a few turns of the gigantic pepper mill.  I think it was no more exciting than iceberg lettuce.  But it was the zippy zingy salad dressing that had us licking our lips.

A few years ago, I tried to find a dressing that would come close to that zippy zingy taste.  I have a yellow Post-It with an ingredient list but I have no idea where I sourced it. It appears that it exists everywhere out there. Who knows who started it. We have also doctored it a bit ourselves.  When we make this salad we use romaine instead of iceberg and we skip all the fixings, except for thin slices of red onions. That cuts down on calories and sodium.  If we need to stretch the salad, and don't have a second head of romaine, we use mixed greens.  They aren't as sturdy so if using serve as soon as the salad is dressed.

A little bit of parmesan is added to the salad when tossing but we save most of it for a showy topping, along with that quintessential freshly ground black pepper.

So here you go.  It's kind of like that zippy zingy East Side Mario's salad dressing.


1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped, or use dried
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped, or use dried
1/4 tsp. minced onion, or use powder
1/4 tsp. minced garlic, or use powder
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a glass jar and shake well.  This is more salad dressing than you will need for one head of romaine. It will keep in the fridge for a few days. We think it tastes better the next day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Asian Radish Poutine - Radish Haters Unite

I don't think I would call myself a Radish Hater but I am definitely not in love with them.  The mister embraces the raw, crunchy, spicy, bitter taste.  I can take a bit of them in salads but for me they aren't a snack or a meal.

And so begins my struggle with my CSA basket as it is guaranteed to be loaded up with these bright red beauties a few times this summer. The mister is working away from home and I had a dozen near perfect radishes staring me down this weekend.  They were my last offerings remaining in the first CSA basket of the season and I was determined to give them my full respect.

In our second newsletter from Roots and Shoots Farm, they were kind to give assistance to the Radish Haters in their midst.

The recipe that they shared called Sautéed Radishes from had their own embellishments.  Roots and Shoots Farm suggested "you can add the leaves in about three minutes from the end, and serve them up with soy and sweet chili sauce. So yummy!"  

I ended up including the soy and sweet chili sauce to the pan to help wilt the radish greens. As it turns out, the heat caused a nice gravy to form.

As a final touch at plating I topped my radishes with a wedge of Cambozola cheese and voilà, Asian Radish Poutine was born.

I liked it well enough, but next time I would include sautéed spring onions to sweeten it.  This would make a great side for a beef dinner but it's probably too strong for something as delicate as fish.

Are you a Radish Hater? Maybe this is your rescue dish.

Inspired by Roots and Shoots Farm and
Serves 2 as a side dish

1 bunch of radishes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt and pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 to 4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce

Remove the radish leaves and set aside any leaves that are still in very good shape. Wash the radishes and the leaves well.  Trim the radishes at each end and halve or quarter them, depending on their size.

Heat the unsalted butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place the radishes face down and turn the heat to low so they can cook through as they brown.  Stir them occasionally to make sure they are not sticking or getting too brown too fast.  Season them with salt and pepper.  It may take as much as 10 minutes for them to soften.  A few minutes before they finish, add in the radish greens.

Pour soy and sweet chili sauce over the dish and heat through.  Adjust to your taste.

Plate and top with a wedge of cheese.  This time I used Cambozola, thinking I would challenge strong with strong.  Use a cheese that suits your tastes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lebanese Lentil Soup Marries My Roots and Shoots Farm Swiss Chard

I know little of foreign relations but I trust that all is well between Lebanon and Switzerland.  At least it is in my kitchen. My absolute favourite way to eat Swiss chard is in Lebanese Lentil Soup.  I have a few friends that make something similar and they provided the inspiration to include this dish in my repertoire.

It is a dish that is well sought after in the colder months. But knowing how the Ottawa seasons seem to include many climates, I knew I just needed to wait a few days and the scene would be right.

Yesterday, while many were considering building an ark on our dark and stormy Tuesday, I took much comfort in my Lebanese Lentil Soup, loaded up with my entire head of Swiss chard from my last Roots and Shoots Farm CSA basket. For good measure I included a few of my CSA spring onions too.

It is a big batch and kinder weather has returned.  The remainder is now in containers to be enjoyed later. It freezes so well.

Inspired by Mary Salloum's A Taste of Lebanon: Cooking Today The Lebanese Way and two special friends that are lentil soup fans

1 pound lean ground beef
4 cooking onions, evenly chopped
2 spring onions including the greens
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup lentils
5 tablespoons ground cumin
10 cups water
1 bundle Swiss chard, chopped
12 small potatoes (cherry tomato size), halved, leaving the skin on if in good shape
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
lemon juice

Heat the butter and oil in a dutch oven. Season the meat. Sauté the beef until fully browned. Add the onions and sauté until the onions are softened.

Clean the Swiss chard and then rip the leaves from the stems.  Rough chop the leaves into manageable pieces for eating, but not too small.  Chop the stems.

Add the ground cumin and cook for 1 or 2 minutes to bring out the fragrance of the spice.

Add lentils, water, Swiss chard, potatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer with the lid on until the lentils are tender, say 1 hour.  I will let the soup stay on the stove on a low simmer for 3 or 4 hours to let the flavours incorporate.  Add water or broth if it needs thinning.

I find the soup tastes much better the next day.  Consider adding more cumin to your taste as the strength of cumin can vary by variety and age. Adjust the salt to your tastes too.  Potatoes take a lot of salt to cook. Finish seasoning just before serving.

When you serve it up, sprinkle a few drops of lemon the top of the soup.

Great accompanied with freshly baked bread.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Supply and Demand's Famous Kale Salad - Homestyle

Supply and Demand Kale Salad Homestyle for our Summer Solstice dinner.
It's true that I offer up Supply and Demand as one of my regular restaurant haunts when people ask me where to eat in Ottawa.  And despite their offerings on their Raw Bar and seafood selections from the mains, I seem to get permanently stuck in their veggies on the Small Plates and From The Garden section of the menu.

My most repeated dish over my many visits is their signature Kale Salad.  My visits are often impromptu and covering for me instead of cooking for myself.  The last two times I dropped in quickly for a Kale Salad and a Beet Salad. Re-energized, I was good to go.

After my harried attempt at making their Kale Salad for my Summer Solstice dinner, all I can say is, don't come to my restaurant if you want to eat in a hurry. Eating out has its benefits.

The number one rule of cooking if using a recipe is to read it through first to gather the ingredients and to absorb the instructions.  I like to live loose with recipes but I was committed to following this one to a tee.  Mainly because I already know that the space between Chef Steve Wall's Kale Salad perfection and what I could add to elevate the dish to my personal tastes is non-existent.

Had I followed my number one rule of cooking, I would have probably washed and massaged the kale sooner to allow for a proper and thorough drying.  I would have known that the already cooked bacon in the freezer wouldn't do because I needed the rendered fat to toast up the coarse bread crumbs.  And speaking of coarse bread crumbs, well they take a bit of time to make if you are starting with frozen old buns from the freezer.

What I did do right was make sure I had some fresh Manchego cheese on hand to snow peak my mountain of salad.

Although I only had the one head of kale, I made the full batch of dressing and used more the next day with my grilled asparagus in place of a gribiche sauce.  I would consider using this dressing for my classic romaine Caesar too.

Curly kale from this week's CSA basket from Roots and Shoots Farm

If you have an awesome head of curly kale like the one I had from Roots and Shoots Farm, by all means, make the much hailed Kale Salad à la Supply and Demand.  But if you are in a hurry to eat, head on down to 1335 Wellington Street West and hope they can tuck you in at the end of the bar.

Source: Chef Steve Wall, Supply and Demand
printed with permission; embellishments for my own clarity are also included

Makes 4 generous servings.


For Caper Vinaigrette
3 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons capers, plus a good splash of brine
1 large shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups canola oil, scant

For Salad
2 bunches curly kale
1/2 lb bacon
1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs
1 1/2 ounces Manchego cheese*

*Supply and Demand has also used Crotonese cheese

To make the vinaigrette, purée anchovy fillets, Dijon mustard, capers, shallot, garlic, vinegar and water in a blender or VitaMix until smooth.

Chef's Tip: Allow some caper brine to be included with the capers; it will give the vinaigrette an extra "capery" flavour boost.

Slowly add the oil with the blender running. Season with salt.  Chill the dressing until using.

Remove the stems from the kale.  Wash, then soak in ice cold water.  Using ice cubes, massage each leaf individually.  The leaves will turn a strong green.  This tenderizing process removes the leaf's stiffness and will give the kale a more lettuce-like texture.  Once the kale leaves are torn into pieces, pat dry with a towel.

To make coarse bread crumbs, place chunks of old bread in a 300°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes to dry and then crumble it in your hands until you have pieces the size of small peas.

Fry bacon slices until the fat is rendered and bacon is crispy, remove bacon and save the bacon fat in pan.

Add the coarse bread crumbs to the hot bacon fat in the pan and sauté until the crumbs are golden.  Season lightly with salt.

Put the kale in a bowl for tossing.  Season it lightly with salt.  Add the bacony bread crumbs, and crumbled bacon.  Don your kitchen gloves. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette and massage it into the leaves.

Place in serving bowl and top with shredded cheese using a fine microplane.

In the middle of preparing this post I had to zip out to do an errand in the village.  Dinner service had just started at Supply and Demand so I sat in for a quick bite.  Kale salad to start, of course.  Comparing this delight to my weekend effort, I think my Supply and Demand Kale Salad Homestyle was a success.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tomato and Two Cheese Phyllo Tart

Get ready for Canada Day.  Here is your bold red party feature for your feast.

The Tomato and Cheese tart is so versatile. Because of its sophisticated presentation, it is well suited for entertaining.  You can divide it into 4 pieces as a starter portion or cut it into 8 to serve as appetizers.  I have prepared it for brunch, lunch, dinner and parties.

Although the original recipe called for two tomatoes, thinly sliced, I felt that there was too much juice coming from the fresh tomatoes, making the finished product not as crisp as I would like.  So I now use my oven-roasted tomatoes which I have in abundance in the freezer.

This tart is very forgiving on many of the ingredients. I have done different variations depending on what I had on hand.

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped oregano.  Today I used the green parts of my spring onions.  I have also used basil before and even dollops of basil pesto.

I do like using mozzarella as my base cheese but for my second cheese, if I don't have fontina, I have used Jarlsberg.  A few drops of chèvre goat cheese would taste great too. You could also consider a sprinkle of parmesan on top to finish.

After you've made your first one, you will be brimming with ideas on how to make it your own.

Bon Appétit!

Adapted from a recipe by Elizabeth Baird called Easy Cheesy Tomato Tart

3 sheets phyllo pastry
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 1/2 ounces (90 gr) mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 ounces (70 gr) fontina cheese, shredded
12 to 14 pieces of oven-roasted tomatoes
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped green onions, greens only
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin oil oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut each sheet of phyllo in half crosswise, creating six pieces of phyllo pastry in total.  Brush two sheets with melted butter and place loosely on top of each other and then into a 14-inch x 4-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Make sure the two sheets are not exactly aligned. Spread 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on the top sheet in the pan. Brush another two sheets with melted butter and place loosely into the tart pan. overlapping.  Try to create a ruffled effect with the edges.  Again spread 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on the top phyllo sheet. Brush the remaining two sheets and layer into the tart pan, continuing the ruffled effect with the edges. 

Cover with layer of mozzarella and most of the fontina cheese. Arrange tomato pieces on top, placing them close together. Sprinkle with the remaining fontina cheese as a garnish. Sprinkle with garlic, green onions and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the tart pan on baking sheet and bake in 375°F oven for 30 minutes or until phyllo is golden. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Roots and Shoots Farm - 1st Week of CSA Food 2014

Waiting for the CSA season to begin is much like waiting for your birthday.  I've been counting down the days for Roots and Shoots Farm's food basket.  This little farm near Manotick Station started 5 seasons ago and has developed into a mighty one. One that is now certified organic and also grows winter greens.

My drop off location is close to home here in Westboro. An easy walk or a short drive. Danny B, CSA & Market Manager, was there to greet us this week.  His ever smiling face and booming voice. Danny is eating the food from the farm all day long. I think, if I eat a steady diet of this great produce I'll be that crazy happy too. I'm sure what you eat must matter.

I am a CSA veteran. I too have been doing the food baskets for 5 years. All the years that Roots and Shoots Farm has been in Ottawa.

As this farm has matured over this half decade, so has their produce.  More vibrant, consistent and substantial. Let me present to you my first share for 2014. A smaller one to start, but oh so good.

Swiss chard

Curly kale

Romaine lettuce

Spicy mixed greens

Spring onions


Did you miss out on signing up for their share? Do what I do when I need an extra boost of vegetables.  Shop at their stall at the Ottawa Farmers' Market.  In Westboro on the Byron Lineaer Park on Saturdays from 9:30 am to 3 pm. At Brewer Park on Sundays from 8 am to 3 pm.

The World's 1,170,001st Recipe for Banana Cranberry Pecan Bread - And The Best

When I searched the internet for 'banana bread recipe cranberry pecans', Google came back with 1,170,000 hits.  Make this recipe 1,170,001.  I didn't bother to read any of the other entries. I was just curious to see how ubiquitous the tried and true banana bread really is.

The foundation of this recipe starts from one that was shared with my mother by her maid-of-honour - a very special friend that had been in Canada only a few years before her but whom she counted on to show her the ropes in her new country.

Banana bread isn't very Danish from what I can tell. So it likely came into the repertoire as they began to channel Canadian and North American foods into their cooking and baking. In the very established farming community where I grew up, everybody had a family recipe for banana bread.  It was a casual cake to have on hand to serve to unexpected company and to bring to pot luck teas.  Banana bread was a classic church bread. (There are those that would confess that the best part of attending church is the food that seems to be shared a plenty.)

When I made this banana bread recently, I decided to clear out my remaining cranberries and pecans.  The end result was quite pleasing and it elevated this cake from casual to semi-formal!  I am not sure I will make it ever again without these two extra ingredients.  The cranberries really brightened the taste.

When I made the cake a second time it was to get the ingredients and method properly recorded.  There were a few requests for the recipe and I am happy to share.  Imagine! One million, one hundred and seventy thousand recipes for banana bread with cranberries and pecans and there were people that wanted mine.


3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 to 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed (approx 1 3/4 cups of mashed)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice

Soak cranberries in very warm orange juice.  Set aside to steep and cool.

Grease and lightly flour a 11" x 5" loaf pan. (This loaf pan is quite large.  If you have a smaller loaf pan, consider making just two thirds of the recipe.)

Cream butter and sugar together.

Add eggs one at a time and beat well.

Sift dry ingredients together and fold into batter alternating with mashed bananas.  Drain the cranberries. Mix the cranberries and chopped pecans into the batter along with the last two tablespoons of the flour mixture.

Pour into the loaf pan and even the top with an offset spatula.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in a 350ºF.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Healing Quiche

This week I went to visit a special friend who is in the fight of her life right now.  Her pain is excruciating, affecting her mobility. Although she wants to keep active and independent, she knows accepting help from friends will be a key strategy in dealing with her health crisis.

So she welcomes any and all food as it means less strenuous work time for her in the kitchen.  She figured out pretty quickly that she would eat much better this way than if left to her own devices.  This 'people person' confesses she loves the steady stream of company that have been around to support her. She lives alone and can't get out much as medication prevents her from driving right now.  It has been a constant state of 'Open House' and she is lapping up the positive energy that is coming with it.

I showed up for lunch with a quiche and a special hearty healthy salad ready to plate.  The four hours flew by.  She did pretty much all of the talking and I listened.  Probably the way it should be.  I didn't mind.  Her tales are always so animated. She has a way of keeping the sadness at bay.

Although her prognosis seems all too gloomy, we agreed it is just as easy to stay hopeful as it is to throw in the towel too soon. We don't have to predict the future and get it right, so why not take the path of brightness.

She is convinced a happy outlook will give her extra time, as will great visits and good food.  She may not be a doctor but I totally buy into her prescription.

Now onto the details of the quiche....

Quiche should be a staple in your repertoire of recipes for entertaining.  It is timeless and the kind of dish that can be showy if you want to put some artistic flair into how you finish it off.

A quiche is a very rich dish with its pie shell, cheese, and creamy filling.  You can cut back on the calories by using a lower percent milk and less fatty cheese in lesser quantities.  I counter the richness of this dish by dividing the pie into 8 pieces instead of 6 and rounding out the plate with a very healthy salad.

I like a quiche for both practical and economical reasons.  

It is the kind of dish that can have all of its individual ingredients prepared ahead of time, making the final assembly minimal before it hits the oven. Some like to make the whole thing ahead and reheat it, but my preference is to have it fresh and slightly warm.

It is also the kind of dish that can help you move along things lingering in your fridge or pantry. A chance to be creative and step away from the rigidity of a recipe.

I follow some basic rules when preparing my quiche.

I usually do a ratio of 1 egg to 3/8 cup of milk/cream.  So for 4 eggs I use 1 1/2 cups of a milk/cream combo. Ultimately how many eggs you use will depend on the size of the quiche pan or pie plate.  If you are unsure, you can always start with a 3 egg mixture.  I prefer 10% cream and use a 2 to one ratio of cream to milk.  You can go as low cal and as high cal as you like.  I am sure there is some chef somewhere boldly using all whipping cream for the liquid.  I dare not be so rich.

I use about 6 ounces of grated cheese and I take my lead from the other flavours in the dish.  My go to cheese is Jarlsberg.  But I also like Gruyère and chèvre goat cheese.  Sometimes I mix them.  Even cheddar could do if it was Old.  I find a harder cheese works best.  I avoid the more creamy cheeses like Havarti.

I like a bit of meat like ham or bacon or even lardon.  My preference is a crumbled bacon.  I use enough to cover the bottom of the quiche as my first layer. If I use ham I cut into cubes.

I use a good sized cooking onion,diced. I like to sweat it off and bring a little colour to it.  The cooked onions must be completely cooled before going into the quiche.  I do not use garlic but this time I added two ramps, known as wild leeks.  The bulb ends were sliced and sautéed with the onions. Then the rough chopped ramp leaves were added just to lightly wilt them.

If I add spinach, I steam it first and then wring it completely dry.  It too needs to be cooled.  It helps to rough chop it so it distributes evenly.  I like to toss it with the grated cheese before adding it to the quiche so I can avoid large dark green blobs presenting through the surface of the quiche.

You could also use mushrooms and red pepper but the key is to make sure they are cooked off well before using.  Any extra moisture coming from these additional flavour ingredients means that your quiche is at risk of not setting properly.  It will still taste great but it could end up being a mess on the plate.  It could also ruin the crust from baking properly.

Speaking of the crust, I make sure to chill it well after it has been put into the quiche dish and before loading in the filling. This will help to have a nicely browned bottom to your quiche. I find this saves me from blind baking it.

Some of the ingredients were sourced locally:
Spinach - Roots and Shoots Farm
Asparagus - Acorn Creek Garden Farm
Bacon - Lavergne's
Ramps - a secret place in the secret woods west of Ottawa

Servings: 6 or 8

1 9-inch pie shell
1 onion, diced, sweated and slightly caramelized, cooled
2 ramps (prepared with the onions)
6 oz Jarlsberg cheese, grated
6 - 8 slices bacon, crumbled (just enough to cover the bottom of the quiche)
3 - 5 oz spinach, steamed, wrung dry, cooled
3 spears of asparagus, slightly blanched, cut on the diagonal
10 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
4 eggs
1 cup 10% cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Sprinkle the crumbled bacon over the bottom of the chilled, pricked, unbaked pie shell.

Cover with the cooled sautéed onions and ramps.

Cover with the mixture of spinach and grated cheese.

Beat the eggs and add the milk, cream, salt, pepper, dry mustard and cayenne. Mix.  Then pour slowly over the ingredients in the pie shell.

Decorate the top of the quiche with the slices of asparagus and the grape tomato halves.

Bake at 375ºF for 45 to 50 minutes until lightly browned and firm.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekend Brunch and My Lobster Benny at The Urban Pear

Jeff Frost, new owner of The Urban Pear in the Glebe says he wants his weekend brunch to be known as the best in the city.  Based on my Lobster Benny this morning, this goal is a distinct possibility.

Brunch at the Pear is targeted to a niche market that wants a high end experience, where you may come to celebrate, expect quality food and to spend time visiting your company.  It's not a quickie diner or a place to mop up your innards from your night before escapades. Neither is it uptight and stiff. Just civilized and cozy.

It's also one of the few places that offers brunch both Saturdays and Sundays.

Although the place is almost all windows, new art of bright colours adorn the freshly painted limonade walls.  Sunny on in the inside as well as out.

The brunch menu offers ample choices for a small eatery.  Their broad social media presence gives many hints to these dishes. Premium pricing meant that their pictures so far though hadn't lured me in.

Our visit this morning was impulsive. Shattered plans and the DST clock ticking, my gal pal and I took to Twitter for the save. No picture to distract me or the meaty price tag, I fell in love with the idea of mushrooms and leek stuffed crêpes.

Well, so did she. Bowing to her choice, I graciously executed Plan B.  As the most expensive item on the menu, the $22 Lobster Benny seduced -  'eggs over butter poached lobster meat and topped with matchstick peameal bacon'. In fact, all Bennies are promised as '2 soft poached eggs on buttered toast, topped with hollandaise and served with side house salad and hash'.

The eggs were just the way I like them. Exceptionally soft and jiggly. The whites just set.

The lobster pieces were chunky and supple. All bathed in a hollandaise with pronounced zip, keeping it light and hiding the true richness.

I welcomed the large mixed green salad and was relieved that they knew to downplay the dressing.  It's about that Benny, after all.

The potatoes weren't quite hash by my estimation. Worthy roasted chunks of soft creamy potatoes, there has to be a way more classy name than 'hash'.

The crispy matchstick peameal bacon nicely salted the proteins.

Suspecting I may have made the better choice, I nabbed a taste of my girlfriend's crêpes.  With the bonus of being a vegetarian option, the medley of mushroom filling was earthy, decadent and well sauced in its mornay.  Also a solid pick.  Our portions were ample.

Plate after plate of their stuffed french toast paraded through the dining room. Perhaps the most popular dish of the day.

The service was friendly and attentive despite the demands of a very full house. Our meals were well timed.

As I often do in restaurants, I skipped the espresso drink and opted for brew. It's a bottomless cup, but pricey too at $3.50. No locally roasted bean here. I'm told it hails from stock at Morala.

There are some that will find the pricing distracting. As is often the case, when I have thoroughly enjoyed a dish to its fullest, the time spent on the value proposition tends to fade, rationalizing that there are times to shower oneself with a treat.

Plain coffee aside, I have high praise for the Lobster Benny served today.  Apologies for scraping the porcelain from my plate.

As Jeff chases down the crown for Best Brunch in Ottawa, he will only ever know if you vote with your feet.

The Urban Pear
151 Second Avenue, Unit C
Ottawa, Ontario
Twitter: UrbanPear
Facebook: The Urban Pear

Mon: Closed
Tue to Thurs: 11:30 am to 2 pm; 5:30 pm - 9 pm
Fri: 11:30 am - 2 pm, 5:30 - 9:30 pm
Sat: 10 am - 3 pm; 5:30 - 9:30 pm
Sun: 10 am - 3 pm, 5:30 - 9 pm

The Urban Pear on Urbanspoon
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