Friday, April 30, 2010

Dinner Mark Bittman Style

Mark Bittman, successful author of the recent best seller, Food Matters, has a clear message. Eat less meat, eliminate processed foods and consume more fruits and vegetables. And so last night we made dinner Mark Bittman style.

Our chicken breasts, skin off and bone-in, marinated for the afternoon in a concoction of freshly squeezed lime juice, oil, cilantro, salt and pepper and a splash of chili oil for kick. The breasts were slit to increase marinating surface area and improve cooking time on the BBQ. Our plan was to chop each of the breasts in half for serving. Although it may be hard to tell from the picture, the piece of chicken is probably no more than 3 ounces.

The family had put in a request to repeat the Spinach Salad with Apples, Avocado and Bacon from Bon Appétit - December 2000. You may recognize it from my April 11th post where I first tried it. How can you not feel pius about eating spinach. As an FYI, I really reduce the amount of dressing I actually put on this dish. I want a glisten not a drowning.

We matched this with a bean based salad called Black Bean Mango Salsa from Bon Appétit - April 1999. Lets give a shout out for legumes! The dressing on the salsa is lime juice, chili oil and a wee bit of sugar. Both recipes were found on the Epicurious website.

On presentation, the first comment was, "Wow, is dinner ever colourful!" I take that to be a good thing.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Early Summer 2010

The Early Summer edition of the LCBO's Food & Drink Magazine was released yesterday. Run and get one before they are all snapped off the shelves. Three articles really stood out for me.

Spectacular Spoons presents six eye-catching hors d'oeuvres attractively served on flat-bottom Chinese spoons. A presentation style that has come into vogue. If the recipes taste as good as the pictures look, they will be a hit.

The second and third piece that caught my eye are titled Tour de France and French Accents. My chest actually started to ache when I flipped through the pages, as it cast me back instantly to our 24-day trip to France in 2007. One of the highlights of our travels was experiencing local cuisine. F&D is showcasing the regions of Alsace, Bordeaux, Normandy, Burgundy, Languedoc and Champagne. I am sensing a party in the making.

Food & Drink has been nominated as Best Food Magazine and Best Drink Magazine for the 2010 Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards with the winners to be announced in early May in Australia.

Monday, April 26, 2010

OHPAH! Dining In Greek Style

Santorini is a member of the Cyclades group of islands located in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km southeast from Greece's mainland. It, along with islands Naxos and Paros, holds very fond memories for us from our month long trip to Greece back in the late 80's.

And so when BBQ season hits, it is inevitable that a request will go out for the full Greek experience. That request was 'delivered' yesterday when I realized that the 'soon to expire' plain yogurt was best transformed into 'we can't stop dipping' Tzatziki. And so last evening's grocery run incorporated the ingredients we needed to go Aegean. [Yikes, I forgot to get olives, though.]

Shortly after our return from Greece I decided to try my hand at Tzatziki. I found a great recipe in The St. Lawrence Market Cookbook by Anita Stewart. The authors Pat, Effie, and Alex Stroutzas were from Alex's Cheese at the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto. Google tells me that Alex Stroutzas is still in the market and the place is now called 'The Adventures in Cheese'.


2 cups Plain Yogurt
1/2 Cucumber, peeled, finely grated and drained
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt

Line a colander or a sieve with cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt and allow it to drip for 2 hours or overnight.

After the yogurt has drained, combine it in a small bowl with cucumber and the garlic. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until just before serving.

While the meat is barbequing, drizzle the olive oil over the surface and without stirring, sprinkle on the salt. It needs no mixing - your guests will do that when they dollop it into their souvlaki.

The recipe makes about 1 cup.


I have no idea where I found the recipe for the Pork Souvlaki Kabobs. But it too has been with us since shortly after our trip. I prefer to use fresh herbs over the dried.


1 1/2 lbs pork loins, lean, boneless, Shoulder Butt Loin
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
2 tsp Dried Oregano
1/4 tsp Mint Leaves, Dried
1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Hot Pepper Flakes

In a glass bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, oregano, mint, pepper and hot pepper flakes. Mix well. Add pork cubes and toss to coat. Cover and marinate at room temperature 1 to 2 hours or overnight in refrigerator, turning occasionally.

Thread pork onto 6 or 7 skewers. Place skewers on greased grill over medium hot coals; grill 6 minutes each side, turning once. Serves 4.

And what is Greek dining without the traditional Greek Salad. There are so many good recipes out there to give you inspiration. But don't forget the olives!

The Lemon Roast Potatoes recipe was an unusual find. I was flipping through the newly published Canadian Living Country Living cookbook in 1995, fully expecting every rural recipe known to farming to be bound together. When I read the ingredients for these potatoes, I realized that I could relive my Greek culinary experience one more time.


Lemon juice and oregano make these melt-in-your-mouth potatoes the perfect accompaniment to roast lamb or chicken.

4 lbs Potatoes (8 - 10) peeled
1 cups Water
1/2 cups Lemon Juice
1/3 cups Olive Oil
3 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Pepper

Cut potatoes lengthwise into thick wedges; place in 13 x 9 inch (3 litre) baking dish. Whisk together water, lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, oregano and pepper; pour over potatoes, turning to coat evenly.

Bake in 325ºF (160ºC) oven, gently turning occasionally to keep potatoes well moistened, forabout 2 hours or until potatoes are very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. 8 generous portions.


As the souvlaki is coming close to completing its grilling, we like to heat up some Greek pita bread to complete the meal. A light brush of olive oil gives flavour and keeps it moist. A quick turn on each side and that is enough to wake it up.

It was so nice to return to the islands tonight.

Sunday Brunch - More "Move It Along"

Sunday morning had two events collide into a hearty brunch menu. First, we had plans to head out to Manotick Tree Movers south of Manotick by Carsonby early afternoon to take a look at their tree selection. There would be a lot of walking and so a meal of sustenance was key. When I examined the fridge, I saw a number of ingredients screaming 'Move me along!' Mushrooms for sure. An assortment of peppers in red, yellow and orange also volunteered. Chives. An orange. In the pantry I found potatoes selling the value of their sugary sweet flesh as they had moved to a less firm state. The cooking onions were the last to cry out. So it was delivered that hashbrowns and omelets would be the order of the day.

By the way, we bought a Green Mountain Sugar Maple. I hope it was a good choice.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Local Organic Vegetables All Summer Long Delivered to 'My Door'

Friday morning my husband sent me an email from work with the terse subject line veggies... The body of the email contained only a URL, As I checked out the link, I landed on the website for Roots and Shoots Farm. I have no idea how he heard of the place. I do know he sent it to me because he knew that I have been dabbling with the idea of signing us up for summer food drops of locally grown organic vegetables and that I have been reading to better understand the concept of Community Supported Agriculture.

We are in the Westboro area and there seems to be an interest from local farms to serve our village in this way. My research has by no means been extensive, but I did come to realize that committing to a veggie drop every week for 16 weeks may not work for our summer timetable, now laden with sporadic plans.

When I saw that Roots and Shoots Farm was offering a Half Share where I could receive a selection of seasonal produce every other week for the 16-week program, I impulsively signed up right away. This is as close to speed dating as I have ever come. But I also rationalized that my $275 was likely not at great risk. To have signed up on such short notice is so against my 'research to the death' personality, but this is one time that I felt that I just could not pass on somehow being involved.

So if you are reading this blog in the hopes that I have done all the research on locally grown food drop programs in the Ottawa area, then I will disappoint. However, if reading this can inspire you to contemplate participating in a vegetable box scheme that is right for you and your family, then consider this the impetus to start your own queries. Perhaps the website Just Food and their Ottawa Buy Local Food Guide will help you get started.

Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro

I am just home from my Ottawa 22-hour 'Staycation' with the ladies. We gathered together downtown Friday at 3:00 pm (check-in time) and started the activities in suite with a quick launch into our own version of Happy Hour. Or as it turned out, Happy 3 and Half Hours, complete with flavoured soda water for the thirsty/healthy crowd, wines, cheese and crackers and other nibbles.

One of our fellow consorts, only joining us for the dinner portion of the party, came by to taxi us to the Market. Our destination of choice was Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro, an aboriginal inspired restaurant at 108 Murray Street in the Byward Market.

Chef/co-owner, Warren Sutherland, was one of the 10 contenders for the Gold Medal Plates competition in Ottawa in October 2009. A prestigious experience to be short-listed, I am sure. All that to say we sensed that we were in good hands. Warren works the restaurant with his wife, Phoebe Sutherland also chef/co-owner.

Because we were deeply engaged in socializing and 'catching up', I barely noticed much about the decor, except that it was not brightly lit. I tried to take some pictures of my friends but found the lighting was beyond my photography skills, so I quickly abandoned the camera, as documentation of our time together was not first and foremost on my agenda.

We were promptly served 2 bowls of popcorn in wooden parquet salad bowls. I was taken aback as the popcorn was a bit burnt and actually tasted a bit stale. I read on the Ottawa Foodies site of two similar popcorn comments for this restaurant. And we seem to feel uniformly that they are somehow 'messing' with us but not sure how or why. It was all very odd.

The popcorn was followed by a bannock bread bun with whipped herb butter.

I quite enjoyed our server. She was so patient with our many questions, informative in the details of the menu, flavours, food preparation and portion management. Her steely but oh so pleasant demeanor lead us aptly to confident decisions. I only regret that I didn't remember her name because I would love to publicly acknowledge her.

The menu is set up as Starters, In Betweens and Mains. And once we figured out the rules of engagement and how to manage our portions to hunger level, we became reasonably decisive.

The choices selected in Starters were the Soup of the Day (Vegetable and Barley) and Gathering Nations Salad.

The choices selected in In Betweens were Mahnoomin and Duck Spring Rolls and Wabush (Rabbit) and Spring Onion Risotto.

The choices selected for the Mains were the Wild Sustainable Caught Pickerel and the Awazibi Maple Glazed Roasted Wild Boar.

There had been a pre-plan for at least one dessert and the rest were with pause. But when the time came to commit, we all teamed up against Warren’s Jamaican Rum Bread Pudding served warm with butterscotch ice cream and caramel sauce. The serving size was handsome and everyone enjoyed a solid taste of what proved to be a wonderful dessert.

Again, still quite fixated on 'girl' conversation, there wasn't much 'food' talk. Though, I did note low level moans on those working the Spring Rolls, Risotto and Pickerel dishes. I know this doesn't make for a meaty restaurant review but in some back-handed way, I think it speaks well of our gastronomic experience.

Closing comments of the group as we headed to the car, was that the food was quite enjoyable and all felt they had good value for money. I am not sure that individually this restaurant would have been sought out by any in this crowd, but I had heard such positive things about Warren Sutherland and Sweetgrass, that I just had to give it a try. Being prime Staycation organizer gave me some privilege on setting our in-Ottawa getaway agenda. I am glad it worked out so well.

Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Renowned author, Malcolm Gladwell "Comments" on Ottawa's Battle of the Croissants

Malcolm Gladwell, well-known author, of such best-sellers as The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers today shares for you the brilliant breakthrough of the REAL question on Ottawa's Battle of the Croissants. Before I reveal how this transpired, I must give you a bit of background.

Four things happened today that speak to the formulation of this particular blog entry.

1) I had to cool my heels in the Ottawa South area between 7:15 am and 7:45 am as my son attended physiotherapy. I headed to my bank for an overdue ATM errand and then took a few extra steps to land at the Bridgehead coffeehouse at the corner of Bank and Grove. I knew I needed to get the morning kickstarted with 'a medium latte to go'. Then something happened while in line that can only be justified with the plea "Not guilty by reason of insanity." Against my better, calorie-counting, judgement and against any semblance of will-power, I said "and could I also get one of your ham and Gruyère croissants to go". Well I didn't 'go'. I sat down right away to administer my hit of caffeine and then unravel my little pastry bundle, that I rationalized as breakfast. It took great restraint to chew slowly and with good manners and sophistication as waves of saliva were building. I had an inkling that Bridgehead had not won the buttery croissant competition held on the weekend. But as I savoured the morning delight, I knew that what I was enjoying was still pretty amazing. The important message of this little story, is the total temptation these croissants created when my eyes fell upon them in the display case. (And I haven't even taken the time to share with you the utter disappointment of the person next in line who purposefully trekked to Bridgehead this morning to savour the newly released almond croissant, only to hear that it wouldn't be in this store until Friday.)

2) After the taxi servicing was completed, I headed home and I read Ron Eade's Omnivore's Ottawa blog entry on Battle of the pastries: Hot on the trail of Ottawa's best croissant. He announced that Le Moulin de Provence was top pick for the taste off that took place this past Sunday. What I had just enjoyed in Ottawa South this morning didn't even make the top 3.

3) I followed by reading Don's foodiePrints blog entry on Ottawa Croissant Battle: Results of the Roundup. More details on the Sunday taste off. Wow, Bridgehead was tied for 5th! They only beat out Boko Bakery and Loblaws. Who knew.

4) Being a huge fan of the TEDTalks, I rounded out my intellectual stimulation for the morning with Malcolm Gladwell's talk on spaghetti sauce. Shari of Whisk: a food blog had a morning twitter that landed me there through 20 Fascinating Lectures for Serious Foodies  (

And this is when I had my eureka moment. Malcolm Gladwell talks about American marketing researcher, Dr. Howard Moskowitz, who did his doctoral dissertation on psychophysics and is most famous for re-inventing spaghetti sauce. And what I came to realize in the Battle of the Croissants, thanks to Malcolm and Howard, is that we are asking the wrong question. We shouldn't be looking for the perfect croissant, but instead we should be looking for the perfect croissantS. I suspect that the very clever, Tracey Clark, Managing Director of Bridgehead Coffeehouse already knew this. So for all of you not getting your croissant fix from top pick, Le Moulin de Provence, rest assured that you may still be eating a perfect croissant! Wherever your croissant temptations lead you in this city, enjoy. It is pretty fantastic that we have so many great choices in our wee town. (And Ichiban Bakery still needs to be in the running!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

I thought I would surprise my family by making a decadent treat to fulfill their sweet treat cravings. That little something they seem to need in the evening following a satisfying meal. It has a way of soothing the exhaustion that comes with homework pains. This is a new recipe for me and I found it on The recipe is called White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies and is sourced from The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook published by Hearst Books. (Not really all that new since it was published in September 2001!)

If I make it again, I think I will cut back on the salt. The butter I used was already salted.

The baking time was suggested to be 10 to 12 minutes. 11 minutes gave me a fairly dark cookie so I cut the time back to 9 and then took a peak. After all, I was striving for "bake until golden around the edges"!

Monday, April 19, 2010

When I'm Feeling Blue

I ride the No. 2,
When I'm feeling blue.
Destination solitude,
On the No. 2.

The Wellington Gastropub

Two thumbs up!

I met a friend for lunch today at The Wellington Gastropub at 1325 Wellington Street, just east of Island Park. The restaurant is tucked away upstairs above The Harvest Loaf, which is right beside The Ottawa Bagel Shop. I managed to find 2 hour street parking on Clarendon Avenue, the street just perpendicular to the restaurant. There is plenty of 1 hour parking on Wellington and most side streets but this is a risky proposition if you are in the Village to relax over a fine meal.

I like going out to lunch on Monday's as establishments tend to be a lot more quiet and the servers are readily available to us. If you have not been there before, you will find a cosy atmosphere of lighter hardwood floors and a substantial full exposed brick wall on the east side of the dining room and a high, high tin ceiling. Upscale bar/pub feel. The light was pouring in and on such a perfect, sunny Spring day, it certainly set the tone.

We both ordered the Arctic Char with bacon and leek chowder and bok choi. Many will say it is risky to order fish on Monday's but the results were fantastic. The Char was seared to perfection and the flavour-rich creamy chowder enveloped each morsel. We weren't looking for a big meal and so passed on drinks and dessert, since the slices of Art-is-in Bakery bread of White Organic Baguette and Fennel Multigrain Baguette (accompanied by dipping oil and salt) proved to be the perfect starter. A cup of tea brought our meal to a mellow close.

Although it might seem pricey at $24 (all in), if you need a place for a 'treat' lunch, it will not disappoint! I was glad to be back. Check it out.

There are many positive comments for The Wellington Gastropub over on Ottawa Foodies if you would like to read more about the dining experiences of others.

Wellington GastroPub on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 16, 2010

In Memory of Jack Windeler April 19, 1991 - March 27, 2010

When I was in university so many years ago, I made a number of new friends over in the Engineering Faculty. Through these now life long cronies, I met Sandra Hanington. Over the years I would get tidbits of updates as they continued to stay in touch with her. It has been 3 weeks now since I received the tragic e-mail that Sandra's son, Jack Windeler, had taken his own life in residence at Queen's University. He was enrolled in first year of the Arts and Science program. The news was devastating. Hearing about the death of a young person comes as harsh news to anyone. It represents a life plan way out of order. As a mother myself of a son just a year younger than her Jack, I tried to imagine the 'mother grief' that Sandra must be feeling having lost her oldest so abruptly. Suicide adds another level of emotional complication. It seems so futile, so preventable, so mysterious. The questions it leaves us with are many. Time has ticked by since hearing the news but it seems that a day doesn't pass, where I see a tall, young, healthy, active teenager, and I can't help but wonder how they are any different from Jack. Smart, athletic, thoughtful, friendly. I had heard that Sandra and Eric wanted to set up a memorial fund for their son through the Kids Help Phone organization. I am sure many of us have been touched by someone much like Jack and we wished that there was some way we could have helped. Consider making a donation to Kids Help Phone in memory of Jack Windeler. In honour of your Jack.

Kids Help Phone - The Jack Windeler Memorial Fund

One of Canon Henry Scott Holland's best-known writings "Death is nothing at all" was read at Jack's funeral.

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Jack's Mom found my bog entry this week and we have reconnected. We are smarter and wiser for our years. We both have been hurt by death. Though, her pain I can't even begin to imagine. The loss of a child is a pain I don't know. As September 10th was Suicide Awareness Day, the family has released this touching video in hopes of teaching others. As you watch it, consider the role that you play as brother to your neighbour. The strength you can give by recognizing someone might need your help, your voice. Our lives are made richer by caring for others. Even people we do not really know.

Our town is coming to terms with another suicide this past month and because of the high profile of her family, Daron Richardson's passing received much media attention. She was a student at the small high school our teenager attended and in that way, this event is close to home. When we hear of a death by suicide, we all in some way become collateral damage as we struggle to understand how this very personal and final decision gets made. We wonder if any of our loved ones may be at risk, without us even knowing it. We wonder how we can possibly help to make a difference, thus affecting a different outcome. Suicide makes all of feel very vulnerable. It reminds us that there will forever be unanswered questions.

I also want to share with you the announcement of The Jack Project which has been launched by the Windeler family, in memory of their son, Jack. You can read more at the new website. The focus is to support 'emerging adults' in Canada by working with Kids Help Phone and Mental Health First Aid Canada to combat the massive stigma associated with mental illness.

Crab Cakes Followed by Veal Scallopini in Mushroom Madeira Sauce

Yesterday my niece turned 26. She lives in town for now since she is enrolled in graduate studies at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. To celebrate her big day and the 'almost' completion of her program, she accepted the invitation to our 'restaurant' and she brought along two of her school friends. We eased into the meal with a very meaty crab cake appetizer. The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated and therefore guaranteed to be tried and true.

I like to get my crab (real) for this dish at the Produce Depot on Carling Avenue. In their seafood section they carry a container of crab that is close to 1 pound and the crab has already been prepared. We had tried it once before and found it worked well and it is a super easy way to begin the preparation of this delectable treat. What a starter for fine dining!

Although the recipe says it makes 4 patties, I pushed for 5 to accommodate the crowd (one person sat this one out). They still weighed in at a good 4 ounces each. I also made a few change ups to the recipe. I decided to try Panko (Japanese bread flakes) instead of the more pedestrian, everyday bread crumbs. And the herb I chose was cilantro. The picture below is plating in progress and; therefore, pre-sauce. I made a concoction of mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, horseradish and capers. A real burst of flavours. For me, the crab cakes turned out to be my favourite dish from the evening.

Source: The 'New' Best Recipe - from the editors of Cook's Illustrated

The amount of bread crumbs you add will depend on the crab meat's juiciness. Start with the smallest amount, adjust the seasonings, and then add the egg. If the cakes won't bind at this point, add more bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time.

1 pound crab meat
4 scallions, green parts only, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, or dill, basil or parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seafood seasoning
2 tablespoons bread crumbs, plain dry
1/4 cup mayonnaise
ground white pepper
1 large egg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
lemon wedges

Gently fold the crab meat, scallions, herb, Old Bay, 2 tablespoons bread crumbs and mayonnaise together in a medium bowl, being careful not to break up the lumps of crab. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Carefully fold in the egg with a rubber spatula until the mixture just clings together. Add more crumbs if necessary.

Divide the crab mixture into 4 portions and shape each into a fat, round cake, about 3 inches across and 1 1/2 inches high. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. (The crab cakes can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

Put the flour on a plate or in a pie tin. Lightly dredge the crab cakes in the flour. Heat the oil in a large, preferably nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Gently lay the chilled crab cakes in the skillet and pan-fry until the outsides are crisp and browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges or dipping sauce.


Then on to the main course. The veal dish is one we found back in 1990. It came from the then newly published Canadian Rush Hour Cookbook. We made it expecting 'reliable' but came away pleasantly surprised at the WOW factor. What a fantastic dish for entertaining. I ended up getting the veal at Produce Depot as well. Costco was sold out and the product at Farm Boy, although on sale, didn't warm me.

For sides, we chose oven roast potatoes and sautéed green beans and red, yellow and orange peppers. The peeled, red (because they are so creamy!) potatoes are first tossed lightly in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. The Pampered Chef stoneware pan gives consistent results every time. I vary the temperature and roasting time depending on the dinner party and how we are juggling other dishes timing-wise. If we need them fast, it is 425ºF for an hour. Last night I went for 350ºF and maybe as long as 2 hours as we were trying to throttle back on their readiness. The vegetables were first steamed and then quickly sautéed lightly in butter to finish.

Source: The Canadian Living Rush Hour Cookbook

A simple but stylish sauce over quickly cooked meat makes classy
rush-hour fare. Use pork or turkey scallopini for a change of flavor.

All-Purpose Flour
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 tbsp Butter
1/2 lb Mushrooms, small, cut in half
2 tbsp Shallots, minced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 lb veal scallops
1/2 cups Beef Stock
1/4 cups Madeira
1/2 cups Whipping Cream (35%)
2 tbsp Parsley, chopped

Using flat side of meat cleaver, pound veal very thin between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Dust veal lightly with flour.

In large skillet, heat oil with 1 tbsp of the butter over medium-high heat; cook veal (in batches if necessary) for about 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned. Remove veal; set aside.

Melt remaining butter in skillet; cook mushrooms, stirring, for about 3 minutes or just until tender, adding a little more butter if needed. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside with veal.

To juices in pan, add shallots and garlic; cook briefly until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in stock and Madeira; cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add any juice that has accumulated around veal and mushrooms; pour in cream.

Reduce again to thicken slightly, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add veal, mushrooms and parsley; heat through. Makes 4 servings.


We went at a relaxing pace towards dessert. As the lattes were being brewed from our Rancilio Silvia, the Triple Lemon Layer Cake was being prepped with candles. Really, really long candles. The cake is a find from Fine Cooking. It is family tradition to decorate the birthday cake with smarties. 26 is the age of sophistication so we dispensed with multicolour and artfully placed only the yellow smarties, along with the house favourite jujubes and the ubiquitous silver dragées.

The Lemon Curd filling (also Fine Cooking) between the layers is to die for. This is definitely a worth-while recipe to have tucked away for future use.

All in all, a very good birthday dinner that left us all feeling a wee bit soporific!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Reminds Me of The Circle of Life

These beautiful, sunny Spring days are infectious. The energy it gives you seems mysterious and magical. Watching the buds stretching out and the young ground shoots pushing through has brought back vivid memories for me of my late parents. They both died in the Autumn time but Spring reminds me so much of them because of their passion for the earth and gardening and the age old religion of 'puttering around'. So as my heart is aching for them again and as I fondly remember their wonderful traits, I decided to 'pay it forward'.

Today I donated to the Quickstart program through the Ottawa Children's Treatment Centre in support of early intervention for children with autism. This I did in memory of my mother, who I admired so much for her ability to look past a person's individual challenges and see nothing but full opportunities for them.

1928 - 2004

And today I also donated to the local Ottawa programs of the Salvation Army in memory of my father. I saw time and time again where he would give so generously to those in need, even in times where he himself may have had a burden of obligations.

1928 - 2002

These beautiful, sunny Spring days really are infectious. Spring reminds me of the circle of life.

Monday, April 12, 2010

First in Line at the New Bridgehead at Metcalfe and Sparks Street Mall

Tracey Clark, Managing Director of Bridgehead Coffeehouse, doesn't know it, but I am her number one fan and number one fan of her great coffeehouses here in the nation's capital. So it should come as no shock that I would want to be first in line at the opening of the 11th store at the southwest corner of Metcalfe and Sparks Street Mall this morning at 6:30 am. And first in line, I was. Normally, that hour of the day is spent with my walking buddy on the Trans Canada Trail doing an invigorating 4 kms to put a refreshing start on the day. Today would be a surprise for her. Instead, when I pulled up in front of her house, I told her to get in and wrap my pashmina around her eyes as she was going for a ride!

The first lattes on the bar were pulled to perfection. Although I had my heart set on meeting former Eastern Barista Champ Laura P. and World Barista Championship Judge Ian C., we were told that they would not be arriving until 7:00 am.

The opening also coincided with the launch day of their new croissants, now baked in-house from scratch. Not one to normally indulge, I felt compelled to find out how they compared to The French Baker selection they used to bring in for their customers. Their selection includes: Plain, Ham and Gruyère, and finally the classic Pain au Chocolat. Almond Croissant coming soon.

I have had the pleasure of enjoying true French croissants for a month in the summer of 2007 and what we sampled this morning is certainly a good approximation of that French experience. It was pretty obvious that they have a hit on their hands. I enjoyed the Pain au Chocolat and my walking buddy had the Ham and Gruyère. I do want to wish only the best for The French Baker, but I have to say Bridgehead has nailed it. If they can do this everyday with their new croissants, they will be creating yet another reason for customers to flock to their stores. The pastries were "ridiculously" flakey! Only Paris is better.

Bridgehead on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spinach Salad with Apples, Avocado & Bacon Paired with A Striploin Steak Smothered in Sautéed Mushrooms & Onions Then Sided with a Baked Potato

I had stumbled across the recipe for Spinach Salad with Apples, Avocado & Bacon one day when I was taking a leisurely browse through I was in search of a solution for an avocado and a Gala apple and this recipe instantly clicked. The author, Jeff Edmunds, published it in Bon Appétit in the December 2000 issue.

I am quite fond of the President's Choice Thick-Sliced bacon whenever a recipe calls for the salty stuff. In hindsight, I think I could have used less as it seems to remain substantial through the rendering. And perhaps a few extra chops with the chef's knife before it hit the salad would have made its bite a more appropriately portioned for its crispy crunch. The salty flavour has a way of making a fruity apple pop.

I was originally planning to serve the salad with Baby Back Ribs since I saw them on sale at Farm Boy. My shopping excursion afforded me very well priced Extra Lean Ground Beef and also steeply reduced Striploin Steaks.

Knowing I was getting short on my shopping to dinner window, I decided to go with steaks for today and the ribs can be tomorrow's delight. The steak proved to be a worthy choice in that it allowed me to move along some onions, mushrooms and potatoes. In the end I was glad that the Striploin was not full price as there was too much grisel for our liking. We much prefer a steak that cuts like hot knife through butter. So I won't be telling you to run to Farm Boy for this special but the salad is certainly worth a try!

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