Sunday, September 26, 2010

Shourabit Adas (Lentil Soup)

Yesterday I made an impromptu visit to the home of my walking buddy and I was lucky enough to have the added pleasure of meeting up with another old friend. This quick visit had me at the kitchen table chatting, sharing and eating for well over 6 hours. The male specimens in the home wondered through every now and again, picking up 'supplies' or just in transition to another room, leaving the chairs full of estrogen to themselves.

I happened upon a day of cooking, with most burners on the stove in full swing. As the time pushed on, I was eventually served up a bowl of the goodness from pot number 1. It was one of her tried and true soups from the cookbook A Taste of Lebanon: Cooking Today the Lebanese Way by Mary Salloum called Shourabit Adas (Lentil Soup). She shared her modifications. (I ended up adding some more of my own.)

I couldn't wait to go home and make it for myself. A big motivator was the very fresh bundle of swiss chard from my latest Roots and Shoots Farm CSA food basket. Not to mention my CSA potatoes and onions.

Today I made a special trip to Brian's Butchery & Deli at 1117 Cobden Road, off of Iris Street, between Woodroffe Avenue and Greenbank Road. For this soup I wanted some reliable lean ground beef. Their main supply of beef is from Alberta. Ultimately I was pleased with its flavour and also the freshness. Pink meat through and through.

Shourabit Adas (Lentil Soup)
Inspired by Mary Salloum's A Taste of Lebanon: Cooking Today The Lebanese Way and by my special walking buddy

1 pound lean ground beef
5 onions, evenly chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups lentils
3 tablespoons ground cumin
4 cups vegetable broth
10 cups water
1 bundle Swiss chard, chopped
12 small potatoes (cherry tomato size), halved or quartered, leaving the skin on
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.

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

Add lentils, broth, 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.

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

Great accompanied with freshly baked bread.

Deconstructed Salad - Simple and Fresh

Our salad tonight was simple and fresh. Each ingredient stood out on its own.

The purple leaf lettuce came in our Roots and Shoots Farm CSA food basket this week, as did the onions.

The Saint Agur Blue cheese was picked up yesterday from Jacobson's Gourmet Concept on Beechwood Avenue at the corner of Acacia Avenue. Saint Agur is a blue cheese made from pasteurized cow's milk from the village of Beauzac in the Monts du Velay, part of the mountainous Auvergne region of central France. It is so rich, creamy and delicious.

The walnuts were toasted first. They came from California. The walnuts are a source of fibre, iron, phosphorus, as well as a source of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturates, and a good source of magnesium.

The navel oranges were sectioned with the extra attention of completely removing the pith, membrane and skin, leaving sweet, tender, juicy citrus wedges.

Dressing: canola oil, fresh orange juice, Canadian pure light maple syrup, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper.

The chocolate mint sprig decorating the plate was picked this afternoon from my walking buddy's garden in the heart of Ottawa.

Simple. Fresh. Delicious.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rise & Shine Family Restaurant - Waterloo, Ontario

When we were in Waterloo recently and looking for a breakfast/brunch place, we knew that we wanted something that had a predictable menu with lots of choices. Just give us the straight goods. We found a place tucked away in an unassuming strip mall that appeared to be doing a brisk business. Always a good sign.

Inside the place looked clean and orderly. Another good sign.

And for a wee place in a strip mall, it sure seems to hold a lot of tables. Considering the brisk business, good for them!

The menu is daunting in its full 7 pages. But if you want any combination of breakfast, brunch or lunch known to man, then 7 pages it must be. By the way, the place closes at 3 pm every day so don't be looking for dinner here.

Our coffee came up right away. It is priced separately at $1.89 for a bottomless cup. Our orders were in promptly and the wait for our piping hot food seemed reasonable. A nice surprise too considering how busy they were on this Labour Day Monday.

Our guest had the Mexican Benedict with salsa, jalapenos, cheddar cheese and guacamole sauce. It was made with 2 poached eggs on top of a toasted English muffin with hollandaise sauce and served with home fries and baked beans. All for $9.99.

Our guest said he enjoyed it very much. His only comment was that the hollandaise sauce had started to separate and was a bit on the thick side but it didn't stop him from going all the way.

The mister went for the Gourmet Omelette with grilled zucchini, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic and Asiago cheese. It was made with 3 eggs and served with home fries, baked beans and toast. He chose rye. All this for $10.95.

He too was happy with his choice and also spoke well of the home fries.

I chose the Vegetarian Omelette with tomato, zucchini, red onion, mushrooms and green pepper. Like all the omelettes, it too was made with 3 eggs and served with home fries, baked beans and toast. I chose brown. All of this for $9.99.

I like my omelette to be cooked but not to the point of having the browned skin exterior. I have asked many places many times but it always comes out the same as everyone else's omelette. Browned up. I didn't bother asking this time. I really wish it was some how a choice that chef's could deliver. I usually safely retreat to the choice of soft poached eggs to save the bother but this time I was attracted to all the choice goodies coming with this vegetarian omelette. And it really was nicely done. I didn't share the mister's delight in the home fries. I am not sure how they were prepared, but they were too greasy for me. I should have slid them his way.

None of us were fans of the baked beans.

We all liked the place. The service was terrific. In the kitchen and front of the house. Our server was keen, attentive to refills of the liquids and pretty darn cheerful. She did ask why I was taking pictures and who did I work for. In a curious way. I was looking for something clever to say in return but it didn't come to me. So she had to settle for the truth. An unpaid, interested food blogger from Ottawa.

Having been inundated in Ottawa with the Cora's breakfast chain and feeling like it has lost its original home town charm now, we were happy to be in a breakfast place that is local, thinks local and delivers that local charm we were craving.

The breakfasts weren't under priced and I half expected the coffee to be included but we weren't to quibble since we got what we came for. A full belly of a predictable brunch selection, prepared well and presented with a smile.

Could this be a regular go to breakfast place whenever we are back in town? Why yes, I think so.

Rise Shine Family Restaurant
373 Bridge Street West, Unit 4
Waterloo, Ontario
Owner & Operator: Marios Stavrou
Owner & Manager: Christa Simon

Mon to Sat: 7 am - 3 pm
Sun: 8 am - 3 pm

Eat in; Take Out

Rise & Shine Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Roots and Shoots Farm - 13th week of CSA Food

This week's CSA basket from Roots and Shoots Farm was particularly purple. Purple happens to be my favourite, so it was easy to feel good about it all.

Usually as pick-up day approaches, I do start to feel a bit anxious, wondering what will be in store for us this time and what will we do with it. I so hate to waste food and I also want to try to be creative. But the feeling of trepidation is starting to fade as we become more and more familiar with such treats as the Red Russian Kale and the Rainbow Swiss Chard.

The summer has just flown by and as half-share owners, this is our penultimate food basket.

Bin #1: Easter Egg Radishes

Bin #2: Onions and Potatoes

Bin #3: Swiss Chard

Bin #4: Red Russian Kale

Bin #5: Beets

Bin #6: Lettuce

Bin 7: Red Cabbage

Bin # 8: Delicata Squash and Acorn Squash

If you want to learn more about the farm, the contact information for Roots and Shoots is:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This Potluck was a Rembrandt

** This is a re-post from August 22nd. I never thought I would ever find the need to do a re-post. I decided to do it today because August 22nd was the day that I met the wonderful Ottawa foodie behind whisk: a food blog. Shari needs inspiration right now and I am okay with telling her here that she made August 22nd a very good day for me. Do read on. **

It is a mystery to me that any potluck party I go to has yet to have two dishes exactly the same. What law of the universe is that? The Food Timeline website had this to say about potluck:

The term "potluck" has two meanings; both practices are related and have ancient roots:
  1. Taking one's chances with what is being served (in the cooking pot) - Travelers and other unexpected guests took their chances (luck!) with whatever was being served that night.
  2. Community meal composed of food contributions. - Early societies often pooled food resources for special occasions (weddings, funeral, etc.)
Tonight's potluck of finger foods was no different. The table was filled with an array of proteins, temperatures, spices, colours and presentations. It is hard to imagine that something so random, so unorchestrated, can be so attractive. Like art, this feast was a special cornucopia unique to this group of people, meeting on this day, in this particular location and can never be duplicated again. We sure knew it was going to be absolutely amazing food but did we appreciate the one-of-a-kind quality and rarity of this image in that moment? Perhaps not. I know I didn't until I was home with the pictures. But there it was. The ah-ha. So many artists at work, contributing to the final food-painting. The eclectics of potlucks makes it one of the richest and most colourful food experiences we can have together. That empty table each time is the same starting, blank canvas, but once it is weighted down, the canvas comes alive with yet another original masterpiece.

Can Eating Make You Feel Good?

Some days you make a point of eating well.
  • Grilled salmon lightly seasoned with salt and pepper then garnished with peach and red pepper relish.
  • Roasted potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary.
  • Mixed greens with slices of orange and onions, toasted walnuts and nibbles of blue cheese.
And in return, the dinner actually makes you feel good.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Have I Found The Winningest Butter Tart? Why, Yes I Have!

Ask anyone and they will tell you that the quintessential Canadian treat is the butter tart. In fact, it is likely a question on the test for Canadian citizenship.

But this icon is not without controversy. What is definitely up for debate is whether the purest form of the butter tart is allowed to have raisins or nuts. Some even question whether it is allowed to be runny. For me, my only restriction is the inclusion of butter.

From a historical perspective, we are closing in on the 'centennial tart'. One of the earliest known recipes for the Canadian butter tart dates back to 1915 and was from Northern Ontario.

After reading a blog entry called The best butter tart in cottage country from Cottage Life Magazine's food editor's blog The Feast, I was left wondering why one would stop at just looking for the best butter tart in such a limited geographical area. The search for the best butter tart seems to be such a Canadian pass time. I thought consideration should be given to at least cast the net as far as the entire province since some think that the butter tart is really just an Ontario thing. At the very least, that breadth of scope would then include me in the running for best butter tart. On the post that day I left my smug comment, "If there is going to be some sort of butter tart smackdown, I want to be in it. I think I might make the BEST butter tarts. I have a secret ingredient." A lot of bluster I guess but it bothered me that if I was ever called upon, I may not be ready enough to win.

And so it was this pre-occupation to own the title of best butter tart that moved me to the test kitchen these past few days to finally put the quest to rest. I have been hanging on to two Ottawa Citizen articles on butter tarts since 2005. One from November 16, 2005 and the second from a short while later. From these articles I used the filling recipes of Grahame's Bakery in Kemptville, and George Jackson and Kim Stringer, both from Ottawa. I also made a 4th filling following Madame Benoît's classic butter tart recipe. Can you get more Canadian than that?

One thing I am totally comfortable with is my pie crust. I used my own recipe for all 4 batches of tarts. What I did vary was the baking time and temperature. For that I tended to stay true to the filling's recipe. As not to get too overloaded with tarts in the house, I made only 4 of each kind. Judging took place by me and the mister and involved taking a reasonable taste of each tart.


The filling of Grahame's Bakery was baked at 375ºF for 20 minutes. I placed this tart #1 and the mister ranked it #3.


George Jackson's filling was baked at 450ºF for 10 minutes and 350ºF for 6 minutes. I placed this tart #2 and the mister ranked it #1.


Kim Springer's filling was baked at 375ºF for 17 minutes. I placed this tart #3 and the mister ranked it #4.


Madame Benoît's filling was baked at 450ºF for 10 minutes and 350ºF for 6 minutes. I placed this tart #4 and the mister ranked it #2.


The reality was that all tarts were quite good and it does come down to preference of sweetness and viscosity. What we both agreed on was that the tarts baked at the higher temperature to start, made for a nicer pastry finish.

Still feeling there was room for improvement, I continued on in the test kitchen for a second day. I HAD to. There was so much filling left over from the first 4 recipes. I decided to combine all the fillings into a kind of "mutt" filling, never to be duplicated again. Having learned a few things from the 4 recipes on day one, I came up with my own recipe formulation. A formulation in the end that proved to be the winningest butter tart.


The reformulated filling was baked at 450ºF for 9 minutes and 350ºF for 5 minutes. I placed this tart as the new #1.


The "mutt" filling was baked at 450ºF for 9 minutes and 350ºF for 5 minutes. I placed this tart as the new #2.


We both considered the two butter tart fillings from day 2 to be ahead of the the recipes from day 1. At this point though we were splitting hairs. Any true butter tart aficionado would throw lots of coin down on the the counter unconditionally for any of the 6 tarts baked in the test kitchen. I was lucky to have started with some top recipes, as it made the effort of reformulation a breeze. And maybe the task wasn't really that hard since the ingredient list is so classic and so short.

So here it is, the winningest butter tart. If you give it a try, let me know how it went.

World's Best Butter Tarts By One of Ottawa's Real Foodies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup Tenderflake lard

Measure the flour and salt and mix together. Measure out 1/3 cup of this mixture into a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of water and stir to make a smooth paste. Cut the lard into the pastry until the lard is pea size. Add the paste to the flour mixture and gently bring the ingredients together. Try not to overwork as the heat from your hands can over mix the lard into the flour. The small peas of lard help to make the dough so flaky. Wrap the dough and put it into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

To make tarts, roll out 1/2 the dough and cut circles using a yogurt container. This is a little over 4" wide but works well for a standard 2 3/4" muffin tin. You should be able to get 4 circles from this first dough. Once in the pan, prick the bottom and sides of the shell with a fork. Repeat with the other 1/2 of the dough.

1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup pure Canadian maple syrup
2 tablespoons half and half cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 raisins per tart

Work the butter and brown sugar together. Beat in syrup, then the cream, then the egg, vanilla and salt.

Put the raisins in each tart before adding the filling. Fill 2/3 or 3/4 full.

Bake at 450ºF for 9 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 350ºF and bake for another 5 minutes.

Bake at 450ºF for 9 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 350ºF and bake for another 5 minutes.

UPDATE: Fast forward to May 2011 and I have made a few more changes to the Four Biter World Famous Butter Tart.

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