Friday, May 31, 2013

Cheesy Grilled Vegetable Crostinis

Necessity and frugality are the mothers of invention. Or at least of Cheesy Grilled Vegetable Crostinis.

It was well past 1:30 pm when we were able to sit down for something to eat today.  I wanted my honey to take me out to lunch.  But most restaurants would be cleaning up from the noon crowd by then.  The timing just wasn't great.

I half-heartedly offered to make something for us at home instead. Our fridge contained the last of Wednesday night's dinner - grilled vegetables, including grilled asparagus.  I suggested making an omelette, although we did that yesterday for lunch. It seemed lame, but without another idea we both reluctantly agreed.

I got a bit stuck when I pulled out the garlic that was stored with the veggies. Because the cloves were so large, they did not completely roast through on the grill. They were almost cooked but not caramelized. We had set them aside at dinner and I ignored them again yesterday.

But I just couldn't give up on that garlic.  It was soft enough.  Just under-done.  I decided to mince it, not too sure where this was heading.  There was A LOT of minced garlic. That's when the plan changed and I tossed aside the idea of eggs.

I had slices of Art-is-in Bakery's Dynamite White Baguette in the freezer as leftovers from Monday's picnic. So instead, I decided to make Cheesy Grilled Vegetable Crostinis.

They turned out looking so tasty that I decided to have wine and eat on fancy plates.

Cheesy Grilled Vegetable Crostinis
Slices of baguette
Lightly roasted garlic cloves, minced
Grilled vegetables, chopped - cremini mushrooms, zucchini, red and orange peppers, onion
Grilled asparagus, tips removed and set aside, then chopped
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Set the oven to broil at 450F.

Toast the slices of bread under the broiler. Just on one side for about one minute.

Mix the minced garlic with enough butter to be able to cover all the bread slices. Spread on the untoasted side. Toast again under the broiler until the garlic butter and bread are a very light brown.

Cover each toast with heaps of the grilled vegetables.
Cover the vegetables with shredded mozzarella cheese, an asparagus tip and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Place under the broiler until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

No One Knows When You Cry In The Car Wash

The water in the car wash pounds down on the bones of my 4-door, cleaning off the trace evidence of the recent dirt road adventures. I am delighted to soon be clean.

As I cocoon safely from the harshness of my world, the bubblegum soap lays on a kaleidoscope blanket of yellow, pink, blue and green - quickly transforming from comfort to claustrophobic. I can feel my own protective coat is also being stripped away as the water jets release full blast in the "Touchless".

The sudden vulnerability startles me. My raw emotions win out and the crushy feeling pushing against my chest forces me to gasp a loud, moaning, helpless breath.

I just can't hold on any longer and I succumb to the realness that this is Day 17 for you laying peacefully in an unknown slumber. The tubes and wires continue sending out monotone but hopeful signs. Your future remains our mystery.

My eyes water and I channel my strength to push back the floodgate of tears. They well up against my will and break free - pouring out hard but just for a moment.

The hood-wide blower lowers and I slowly advance to the exit.  The seconds on the dryer's LED timer tick down.

As quickly as I entered, the car and I push into the sunshine of the late afternoon, our tough exteriors sparkling and dry.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lunching: Bagel with Cream Cheese, Tomatoes and Cucumber

As the heat and humidity of summer pushes in, I like a more refreshing bite for lunch.  Cucumbers own 'refreshing' in spades.

If I am going to make a sandwich, I prefer it open-faced.  Not just for the pretty but to also manage those carb calories. I think the look adds a bit of class too.

Today's lunch was a simple one.
  • Half of an Ottawa Bagelshop and Deli sesame bagel, toasted if preferred.  I keep them pre-cut in the freezer.  
  • A light smear of cream cheese, instead of butter.  
  • Cucumber slices. I don't like the full rind, so I peel it away in haphazard strips to create a variegated look.  
  • Sweet Cocktail tomato slices - Product of Canada!  
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning.  
  • Finishing with the ubiquitous sprinkle of chives.

Cucumbers are one of my heat busters. What's yours?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Oeufs en Cocotte with Tomatoes and Spinach

I have seen many versions of baked eggs over the years and this one is probably similar to most.  Although, I prefer to bake my eggs in a stew of vegetables versus a cream mixture.

I like this dish because:
  • it makes for a nice presentation for entertaining
  • it is easy to execute
  • so much can be prepared ahead
  • it has a short finish
  • it is forgiving in what ingredients to use and how much
  • it is a great way to use up leftovers
  • the choices of garnishes are endless

Oeufs en Cocotte with Tomatoes and Spinach
Inspired by many
Serves 4

4 eggs, room temperature
1 cooking onion, diced
1 garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
8 small tomatoes, chopped
5 ounces spinach, stemmed
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

1/2 avocado, whipped
1 slice of bacon, crumbled
4 chives, finely cut

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Sauté onions and garlic in a medium frying pan.  Once they have softened, add tomatoes and heat them through until they soften.  Add the spinach to the tomato mixture and heat slowly until the spinach wilts.  At this point the stew can be cooled and refrigerated if using the next day.  Reheat the stew gently before continuing.

Butter four 1/2-cup ramekins. Divide the warm stew among the 4 ramekins and create a deep well in each.  Crack one room temperature egg into each well.  Season the egg with salt and pepper.  Top with grated cheese.  Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and place on the middle rack in the oven.

Look at the eggs after 6 to 7 minutes. You want the egg white to be cooked and the yolk to remain runny.  Giving the baking sheet a bit of a jiggle will help to gauge doneness and judge how much extra time is needed.  The time is affected by the warmth of the stew, the temperature and size of the egg. It could take up to 10 minutes. Take a look at them after each minute.

When you remove the baked eggs from the oven, let them stand for a minute before garnishing with the avocado whip, bacon crumble and chives.

Beech St. Burger - Juicy!

Beech St. Burger is a small eatery in Little Italy next door to Greco Lean and Fit Beech St. location.  Might you feel a little guilty chowing down on a juicy burger, knowing you could be better off next door? You might.

The Beech St. Burger location replaces the short lived Danni Panini which before that was the Nicholas Coffee Shop. Can they make a go of it?  Their timing is right.  If you're going to open a burger shop, do it when the smell of BBQ's permeate us as the warmer days of summer move in.

Under Greco's shadow, I was frugal in my choice. I picked the smaller, single patty Baby Burger.  No cheese. No bacon. Of course, I loaded up on the salad toppings - lettuce, tomato, onion, hot peppers, pickles, plus small dabs of ketchup, mustard, relish and mayo. All for $6. I also, restrained with a more than ample small fry for $2.50. No fizzy drink.

The burger was juicy and flavourful - advertised as "Fresh Local Beef Handmade Patties". Although my bun looked a bit beat up, it was plenty fresh. Just a victim of a tight wrap.  A small detail but I favour the sesame bun. I loved the "Fresh Cut Fries" as well.  Next time I would happily share the spilling box with a friend.

Seating is probably a very tight twenty. And the open grilling and frying area is part of that ambiance.

The experience reminded me of visits to the nearby Hintonburger on Wellington Street. Making me wonder if their overflow of burger popularity might have fans venturing the 2 kms/4 minute drive to Beech St.

Burger season is here and so is Beech St. Burger.

* UPDATE:  Before you head out to Beech St. Burger, check out their super cool ad. *

Beech St. Burger
40 Beech Street
Ottawa, Ontario
Facebook: Beech St. Burger
Twitter: @BeechStBurger

Sun to Thurs: 11 am - 9 pm
Fri and Sat: 11 am - 11 pm

Beech St. Burger on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Belgian Waffles Mille-feuille For Mother's Day Brunch

My mother took great pleasure in showing her love for her family by serving well prepared homemade food.

Waffles were always on the menu when her grandchildren came for weekend visits.

I inherited her waffle machine some 8 years ago. Every time I use it I think of her.

Yields: 16 waffles 

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons melted butter 

Banana slices
Whipped cream
Pure Maple Syrup
michaelsdolce™ Raspberry Chocolate Jam

Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into bowl.

Separate eggs and whip egg whites until stiff.  Beat yolks in a separate bowl. Add the milk to the egg yolks and beat together.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, slowly beating until perfectly smooth. Add the melted butter and combine. Then fold in the egg whites.

Use the waffle maker as directed.

My machine is the Philips Deluxe Wafflemaker HL5360. I cook my waffles for 5 to 6 minutes depending on if I am serving them right away or storing them in the freezer.

When I serve them right away, I like them to be a bit crispy. If I am freezing them, I want to allow for a bit of cooking when they are being warmed (and crisped) in the toaster.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kale, Grilled Vegetables and Goat Cheese Quiche

One of my most favourite cooking experiences is the demand for creativity when the fridge receives an audit and the leftovers get evicted.  Out of respect for this food, we want to use it and use it well. However, its due date is now.

Last night's culprits included:
  • 1/2 bag of Roots and Shoots Farm's young kale, purchased at the Ottawa Farmers' Market on Sunday. Although exceptionally fresh still, I have another bag on hand.  We are (over)loaded in kale.
  • leftover grilled vegetables from dinner the night before (red and yellow pepper, green zucchini, an onion and a handful of mushrooms were grilled in the BBQ basket with olive oil, salt and pepper.)
  • 1 cup of caramelized onions from two nights before.  I need sautéed onions for my pasta dish. I realized after they were sweated off and caramelized that I had way too many for my pasta dish so I siphoned off a pile.
  • 1/2 round of soft ripened goat cheese, leftover from my March book club meeting 6 weeks ago.  It was still in great shape but I was pushing my luck.
  • 10 oven-roasted tomato halves
  • 1 cup of homo milk.  Our son was home from university. He is thin, thin, thin and insists on drinking high fat milk. Because he can.  The expiry date for the last dregs of milk was May 9. It has been sitting there since he left a week ago.
I was quick to pick quiche despite the warm weather.  I wanted comfort food.  As it turns out, I was also down to the last bits of lard to use in the pastry. The fridge really was getting lighter!

Goat cheese can be a strong cheese to use in cooking, 6 ounces is plenty for a 9"quiche. The grilled vegetables, especially the red peppers and mushrooms, helped to give it balance.

Sometimes I make a quiche with just 3 eggs for the 1 1/2 of milk and cream.  But because my vegetables were on the juicy side, I added an extra egg for firmness.

I used the kale raw.  Had I steamed it first, I may have been able to extract some of its liquid by wringing it out, much like I do with spinach - although it doesn't hold as much water as spinach. I went the lazy way instead this time since everything else was ready to go.

If you want to do a 'kitchen eviction' quiche, you just need to keep in mind flavours that go well together. Fill the pie shell full up with your favourites. The egg mixture usually remains constant - 3 or 4 eggs to 1 1/2 cup rich milk, plus seasonings.  It easily fills into the nooks and crannies.  Cheese is great, just don't overdue it.

Here is a little secret about quiche. It is better the next day.  I like to eat it cold, right from the fridge.

If that had been your list of ingredients for a Foodie Face-Off, what would you have made?

Kale, Grilled Vegetables and Goat Cheese Quiche
Servings: 6

1 9-inch pie shell * see pastry recipe below (use half)
1 cup of caramelized onion (may include one minced garlic clove)

2 cups fresh young kale, stemmed and rough chopped
1 1/2 cups grilled vegetables (green zucchini, red and yellow pepper, mushrooms)
10 oven-roasted tomato slices
6 oz Chevrita (A soft cheese made from 100% goat's milk), thin wedges (12 - 15)
4 Eggs
1/2 cup cream (10%)
1 cup Milk
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
1 pinch Cayenne Pepper

Spread caramelized onion over the bottom of pricked, unbaked pie shell. Cover with roughly chopped kale. Cover with the grilled vegetable mix.  Lay on the tomato slices and goat cheese in a pattern.

Beat the egg and whisk in the milk and cream.  Then whisk in the salt, pepper, dry mustard and cayenne pepper.

Bake at 375ºF for 45 minutes, till golden brown and bubbly and the egg has set. Consider covering it loosely with tin foil in the last 10 minutes if it has full colour but is not fully set.


2 cups all-purpose flour (I use 5 Roses)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup lard (I use Tenderflake)
1/4 cup water

Sift flour and salt together in a bowl.

Remove 1/3 cup of this mixture and place it in a small bowl or cup.

Stir water into it to form a smooth paste. (I usually add the water to this small bowl of flour after I have cut in the lard, in order to keep it moist.)

Cut lard into the flour mixture in the first bowl with a pastry blender until the grain is the size of small peas. It works best when the lard is still chilled and not fully at room temperature.

Stir the flour paste into the dough. Work it with your hand until well incorporated and the dough forms a ball. It is important not to over work the dough or it will become tough.

Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

This recipe makes enough dough for a double crust pie.

Monday, May 6, 2013

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Early Summer Issue 2013

I am feasting on the Early Summer issue of LCBO's Food & Drink magazine just released last Wednesday. James Tse's eye-catching cover shot of Victoria Walsh's lamb chops, asparagus and tzatziki gives you a hint that this issue is chocked full of straight forward and flavour packed dishes.

Everybody must be talking about Christopher St. Onge's stunning Lemon Poppyseed Chiffon Cake with Candied Citrus and Ricotta Filling in Birthday Confections. Birthdays, yes, but as the article suggests, these creations say 'celebration', whether a graduation, anniversary, wedding or baby shower. Rolled fondant is very popular and the polka dot cake is for those wanting a show.

Cocktails are big, big, big this year so don't miss the tutorial by James Chatto, A Guide To Garnishing. At a minimum, at least learn how to do the twist! I for one, love it when my Caesar comes with a mini salad. So if you are serving me, bring on the pickled green bean, pickled garlic scape, celery and bacon.

I try to resist being drawn in by Brenda Morrison's Must Haves. This time she was very tricky.  First the Pin Table designed by Scandinavian designer, Andreas Engesvik. It comes in white, black, yellow, neo red and neo green.  I couldn't find it at Bergo Designs but I did see them on Amazon.  Then there are the Two's Company String Lights. I wondered if I could hang them from my fence. Swinging from the trees could be risky business with an open flame and a bit of breeze.

Other torn pages from this issue:
  • Sherry-Glazed Mushroom Tart with Peppery Salad (From A Splash of Sherry by Jennifer Crinion)
  • Radish & Roasted Beet Salad and Strawberry Basil Balsamic Jam (From Garden Delights by Jennifer MacKenzie)
  • Chipotle Crab on Croissant (From Lunch on the Patio by Heather Trim)
  • Grilled Lemon-Lime-Ade and Barbecue-Poached Rhubarb Topping (From The May 24 Cookout by Victoria Walsh)
  • Grilled Flank Steak with Roasted Tomato Pesto (From Tasting Party At Home by Lucy Waverman and Tonia Wilson-Vuksanovic)
  • Chilled Strawberries with Hot-Lime White-Chocolate Sauce (From What's Fresh For Dinner by Lucy Waverman)
By now, finding a copy of the Early Summer issue in major centres could prove to be tough. But if you are in the smaller towns, you might have luck. It has been my strategy in the past. So if you find yourself in Merrickville, Pakenham, or Sharbot Lake, pull into the LCBO and try your luck. It is serious stuff to be pilfering the issue from your best friend's powder room magazine stash. That should be your last resort.

Plan ahead: The Summer issue hits the stores in a little over 7 weeks on Wednesday, June 26th.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Gift of Friendship. Always Say Yes.

When someone calls up and asks if you have coffee, the answer is 'yes'.

Even if you haven't had your shower yet, you're in the middle of laundry, ironing, paying bills, reading a book, making dinner, getting the garbage out, gardening, there is always just a little bit of work to be done....

Never miss the chance for a visit. The dirt and mess can wait.

In the short time it takes for them to land in your driveway, you can get a quick wash, brush your hair and teeth, put on a clean shirt, slap on some lipstick and clear a spot at the table for a couple of cups and few cookies.

When you say 'yes', you're also shouting out, "Hey! You're number one."

Treasure the gift of friendship.

Always say 'yes'.

« I dedicate this post to Helen & Merrill. Wonderful friends who taught me to always say yes »

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