Thursday, July 24, 2014

Whetting Your Appetite - Love Ottawa

This morning I received a pocket call on the home phone at 6:01 am.  Thank you to caller 'Anonymous' for that.  There was heavy breathing and a cough, but not in the way you might think.  If you think THAT way.

Based on the lead-in picture, it could suggest that this post is going to be about the newly opened Holland's Cake and Shake, but it's not. Actually, it is a bit. But it's not the main event. Though possibly the prettiest, and for sure sweetest.

I was up before the dogs barking and the hammers dropping symphonically on the many renovation projects surrounding my turret. On the plus side, it did get me out of the house. And the reason I bolted to an early start was because a Euro Capp in a blue cup was waiting for me at Café qui pense on Main Street.

When I went to bed last night, I didn't know I was going to get up early.

I didn't know I was going to start the day with an Equator Coffee Roasters' Ethiopian Single Origin bean.

I didn't know I was going to Holland's Cake and Shake.

I knew nothing of what would happen in between.

Like meeting the brains and photographer behind The Love Ottawa Project, Dwayne Brown.

Buying a baguette at True Loaf Bread Company.

Scouting some Société Orignal Goat's Milk Jam at The Red Apron.

But settling for less calories and a more practical solution for lunch with a savory galette smothered in roasted kale, cherry tomatoes, caramelized onions and feta.

Finding out that when everyone is looking up, looking WAY up at Beyond The Pale Brewery, they are checking on the vertical hop garden - part of the Community Grow Hop!

Discovering the location of SuzyQ's new quarters. Her doughnuts have textures. So why not the place.

Meeting Elvis. The truffle.

And his Maker.

Getting a $50 parking ticket from the remarkably efficient City of Ottawa. (12 minutes less talking could have saved me a bundle.)

None of this would have been part of my day if I didn't get that pocket call and then see a tweet minutes later that went something like this.

To which I replied...

And so began the conversation.

As I set my table for tea and cake tonight, the details of the very full morning came flooding back over me. A few nuggets stand out.

Embrace living in the moment. Living in the now.

Listen. Listen for possibilities.

Today I learned that how you frame a story isn't just in what you include in the picture but sometimes it's what you don't.

Cakes and treats from Holland's Cake and Shake on Armstrong across from the Parkdale Market. Bottom left: Pineapple Coconut Cream Cheese Caramel Cake $4. Middle: Orange Crush Meringue Tart $4. Top: Raspberry Shortcake $4. Bottom right: Elvis Truffle - Peanut Butter, Banana and Bacon, covered in White Chocolate $2.50.

The Wedge Salad Makes A Comeback

The prognosticators for food trends keep telling us that the Iceberg Wedge Salad is back. In fact they have been telling us for the past 10 years that this popularized mid-century modern first course celeb has been making its comeback!

Of late, perhaps many would give credit for its resurgence to the Mad Men craze. This American television period drama series is also acclaimed for the cocktail rebirth. But I digress.

I love blue cheese and so for me the Wedge Salad becomes another delivery mechanism for the pungent bite-y cheese.

The Wedge Salad probably fell out of favour like most things do when they become overdone, predictable and are no longer prepared with care. The fickle are then easily wooed to the next new salad sensation.

The formula for the Wedge Salad is pretty consistent - iceberg lettuce quartered, lots of bacon, tomatoes and chives for colour.  

As Shawna Wagman points out in her Trends article in Ottawa Magazine's Eating & Drinking 2014, variations in eateries around town include pickled spicy eggs, fried pig's ears, cucumber petals, crushed pink peppercorns, and even pickled carrots. 

Any reincarnation that satiated me in this century has still been quite familiar.

My latest CSA basket from Roots and Shoots Farm included a head of iceberg lettuce. Wedge was the first thing that came to mind.  

This particular head was a beautiful green with tender flawless, though quite loosely packed leaves. The iceberg lettuce I bought for my last Wedge Salad in March looked utterly anemic in comparison.

Whether you follow food trends or like food 'just because', get yourself a crisp Berg and start piling on the Blue.

Inspired by many. Bon Appétit Magazine, Fine Cooking Magazine, Aaron McCargo Jr., Martha Stewart, David Lebovitz to name a few.

This blue cheese dressing handily covers 4 servings.  It makes a great dip for carrots, celery and suicide wings. Just use less buttermilk and lemon juice so it is 'stiffer'.

100 - 125 gr. blue cheese, depending on your taste
4 tablespoons sour cream
3 - 4 tablespoons buttermilk, depending on your preferred consistency
2 - 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
a dash of sriracha
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the crumbled blue cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise.  Mash the blue cheese as you stir but make sure it still has some chunks throughout.  Add the lemon juice and stir.  Add the buttermilk until you have the desired consistency.  Add a dash of sriracha and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The dressing will stiffen when fully chilled.  Have it sit out while you are preparing the plates to soften it.

Serve over a quartered iceberg lettuce, core removed.  Garnish with bacon chunks/crumble and wedges of small tomatoes.  Sprinkle with chopped chives.  Include small chunks of blue cheese if you have some leftover.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Roots and Shoots Farm - 5th Week of CSA Food 2014

Garlic Scapes

The word is spreading about Roots and Shoots Farm.  

We had friends in for an impromptu dinner party Saturday night to share in our latest CSA basket, only to find out they have jumped on board too.  It is their first year and they are so pleased that they are augmenting their half share with more Roots and Shoots produce from the Ottawa Farmers' Market Westboro.

Want to know why they are so excited? Here is what we both brought home from our Thursday pickup.


Dinosaur Kale

Golden Beets

Hakurei Turnips

Iceberg Lettuce

Spring Onions

Summer Squash



Building Good Sandwiches The Organic Way - Avocado and Egg on Rye

I took the long way to lunch today. The really long way. What could I possibly eat? The fridge wasn't brimming, nor was it empty. But it gave off that vibe like "There's nothing to eat."

The crisp, fresh, sweet carrots first beckoned my munch. Then a large, succulent cucumber.  The scant leftover blue cheese dressing was almost too obvious.

I figure they deserved some civility, so instead of crunching down on them mindlessly, they were cleaned and cut and presented for sharing.

In my fridge foraging I found a nicely ripe avocado, a partly cut red onion, a small wedge of Jarlsberg cheese and a few herbs - cilantro, basil and chives. Oh some kind of sandwich I guess. Still pretty un-enthused.

The bread is kept in the freezer, pre-sliced at purchase or at home just before hitting the chiller.

Avocado said rye bread. I agreed. Lucky me, one slice left.

And so on with the building and piling. It was now seeming more hopeful.

I find building my open-faced sandwiches is much like art. You stand back and stare at the canvas and size up the look - and in this case the taste - then figure out where to put more colour, more texture, more flavour.

You know me well enough by now to know that my cheap trick is the egg - more often than not, soft-boiled. Partly it is my canned answer to 'What next?' when my lame response is apt to be 'I don't know'. I like that it is colour and it is protein too. Maybe that makes this cheap trick okay then.  I blame my Danish roots. We do love the egg.

So it was that my lunch organically unfolded. The carrots, the cucumber, the smørrebrød sandwich. And in the very last seconds, a quick splash of sriracha for the WOW and the POW.

* Happy to say that my carrots, cucumber and cilantro came in my latest CSA basket from Roots and Shoots Farm. The to-die-for sriracha is a new creation from michaelsdolce which I bought at the Ottawa Farmers' Market, Brewer Park.

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
4 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.
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