Thursday, September 24, 2009

Olive Oil and Lemon Loaf

What is it that makes baking such a lovely experience? Perhaps it is the stirring smells, the sweetness and the warmth of baked goods exuding such comfort. It is Fall, and I am baking and cooking every day in my new home in Bloor West Village, Toronto. Blessed by a wealth of nearby produce shops and specialty markets, my mostly organic creations know few bounds. My most recent creation is a take on a Bon Appétit recipe for Olive Oil Cake...which I made into an Olive Oil and Lemon Loaf.
It turned out perfectly brown, with a faintly lemon-yellow top. My best looking loaf, especially from a new (to me) oven. The taste: sweet, with a moist crumb and a not-overpowering taste of lemon. Great with tea.

Olive Oil and Lemon Loaf

1 1/2 cups organic unbleached white flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 large organic eggs
3/4 cup organic whole milk or light cream
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons finely grated (zested) organic lemon peel

Preheat oven to 325°F. Oil and flour a loaf pan. Whisk first five ingredients in a large bowl. In another medium bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, olive oil and lemon zest. Gradually whisk wet ingredients into dry ones. Transfer to the pan.
Bake until tester comes out clean, about 65 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then remove the cake and let cool completely. Wrap leftovers in foil at room temperature.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Eric and I have been packing and purging our belongings. We have too many things, including a microwave we seldom use (except to time our tea as it steeps).


We've flirted with the idea of shedding this appliance, and now that we've posted it for sale we are well on our way.

Here is a good story from re-nest about the same topic.

My best friend in high school didn't have a microwave growing up - and my tea seller just got rid of hers. Seems like a healthy idea that people are happy with - plus it saves space and maybe even energy. Besides, the stove can melt butter in pretty much the same amount of time, and isn't that what really matters?

Monday, March 9, 2009

light and ephemeral

There's something to be said for a meal that's light and ephemeral.

Granted, the most satisfying dishes are often those that incorporate butter into the mix. But not always.

Sometimes satisfaction can come from relishing simplicity. All it takes are a few relatively mild but lovely ingredients to create a dish that's nourishing, inexpensive and elegant.

thai-style soup

thai-style soup

4 cups vegetable stock (plus 1 cup water)
2 stalks lemongrass, peeled, bruised and cut in half
1/2 cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tsp sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium)
1 lime
1 bunch fresh cilantro or coriander
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the stock and water in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add lemongrass, soy sauce, lime zest, chile, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms, salt and sugar. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. 

Before serving, add lime juice and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh cilantro or coriander if desired.

Can be enjoyed with steamed rice or couscous, or on its own for a light lunch.

Monday, March 2, 2009

what duck fat?

This morning we awoke wondering whether the previous evening had all been just a dream.

As a xmas gift to Kate (and to myself as well, I confess), I booked us into a cooking class with Aaron Linley, head chef and co-owner of our favourite Stratford, Ontario restaurant, Bijou -- a place as small and precious as the name implies.

Aaron guided six of us through the following courses:

- french onion soup (onions and croutons cooked in duck fat)
- rainbow trout en papillote
- marinated guinea fowl w/ a baked eggplant and tomato gratin
- coconut pannacotta w/ tropical fruit soup and coconut meringue

In light of our recent determination to abstain from most meat items, eating at Bijou -- or any reputable restaurant, for that matter -- presents us with with an ethical quandary. Meat: to eat or not to eat.

Though we've yet to fully iron out our guidelines on the meat issue, we've agreed to revert to being omnivores if:

- the meat is sourced locally and raised ethically
- we find ourselves in a position where not eating the meat would prove exceptionally awkward and potentially embarrassing for a host
- in the rare case where our survival depends upon trapping a hare/pigeon/scorpion for sustenance

The third scenario aside, we've found that dining out doesn't typically put us in a situation where eating meat is unavoidable, as most menus carry at least one vegetarian option; and in many other cases, the source of the meat is uncertain or unspecified. As this is commonly the case, vegetarians we remain.

At a place like Bijou, however, our status as vegetarians -- loose to begin with -- becomes downright meaningless.  While it is almost impossible at Bijou to order a prix fixe menu that is entirely vegetarian, we are assured in most cases that the centerpiece of a dish was in many cases raised right here in Perth county.  There's something to be said also for the fact that most of the other ingredients on the plate will be local as well.

Bijou's menu, you might say, satisfies both tastebuds and conscience. Their philosophy sums it up:

Dedicated to respectfully serving fresh, simple food, the chefs at Bijou create a daily chalkboard menu that changes to reflect the availability and freshness of our ingredients. We serve only the highest quality products when they are in season. Bijou maintains a close relationship with local suppliers and we're proud to showcase the best of Perth County and Canada.

And as long as Bijou maintains this close relationship with local suppliers in the name of freshness and sustainability, our relationship with Bijou's menu will remain just as strong.

Despite the duck fat.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pear Cobbler

Pear Cobbler. Not as fancy as pie, not as haphazardly-casual as crisp. Perfect for taking to a friend's dinner or making your own meal at home something special.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a baking dish.

3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose or cake flour
pinch of salt
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
2 tbsp lemon juice
5 to 6 medium pears, peeled (if you'd like), cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup or so of water

1 cup all purpose or cake flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. sugar (optional)

Combine all of the filling ingredients, except pears, in large skillet. Stir until it starts to melt together. Stir in sliced pears and coat in the batter. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, stirring gently. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the topping: Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in mixing bowl. Whisk or beat on low speed of electric mixer for about 30 seconds. Add buttermilk and melted butter. Continue to mix on low speed about 30 seconds, or just until blended.

Pour hot filling into baking pan. Top evenly with large spoonfuls of topping. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar, if desired. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pears are tender and bubbly and topping is golden brown. Serve warm with cream or ice cream or eat plain!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

it's my goat

Last month, Katie and I found ourselves at the Stratford farmer's market -- as we do most Saturday mornings -- with the goal of procuring some of our favourite market items. In the winter, these will often include some or all of the following: 

- apples, of the scrumptious variety

- jam when we're out of it; raspberry has been a favourite of late

- one 'Morning Glory' muffin, made with olive oil instead of butter, to share (one each when we're feeling bold)

- any root vegetables that look decent, like carrots, potatoes, or beets

And of course, our Achilles' heel: cheese.

Buying local products is really the sine qua non of shopping at a farmer's market; but when it comes to cheese, you'd be hard-pressed to find something that has been made within an hour's drive of home. Thankfully Stratfordites are a bit spoiled on this front. 

Over the past few years cheese made by Monforte Dairy has made its way into the markets, stores and restaurants of Stratford and the surrounding area. I use the past tense here because Monforte is in the process of moving from their previous base of Millbank, Ontario. 

While this may be a story for another time, suffice it to say that the Monforte table at the Stratford farmer's market has on countless Saturday mornings tested our resilience in the face of deliciousness. Monforte, of course, being a rough translation of "my strength," is aptly named for the willpower one must summon to resist its sinfully addictive goodness. 

This day there was no strength. Upon approaching the table I noticed a new addition to their selection of displayed cheeses: a relatively nondescript-looking container with the word 'Spadina' written in marker on its cover.

"What's Spadina?" I asked Rachel, the young woman running the table.

"It's my goat," she answered.

"This cheese comes from your goat?"

"From her milk, yes. Then we flavour the cheese with honey."

Naturally we bought Spadina's cheese. And sure enough the creaminess of the cheese was nicely complimented by a sweetness subtle enough to remain savoury. 

Here I will be so bold as to claim that there may not be a better topping for post-market toast than creamy cheese that has been made from the milk of a goat -- Spadina the goat, to be precise.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Katie’s Bachelorette Bistro Supper

So it was snowy last night. That isn’t surprising for Ontario in February. I was feeling lazy. Despite having a 5k race looming that isn’t so surprising either. Plus I was alone because Eric is in Montreal being a rock star. Boo.

When I was a student with limited culinary aspirations I probably had crackers in the cupboard, maybe some canned peaches. Now that I am a grownup (heh) I have a full pantry and a half-full fridge! Yesterday I still felt like I had nothing to cook with, but what do you know – I had enough for a fab meal.

Roasted Balsamic Onions
Salad with herbs and mustard dressing
Lightly Fried Egg (Market Fresh)

Preheat over to 375 degrees

Peel and cut an onion into wedges…any onion will do, I had a sweet one on hand and it was delicious

Place onion in an oven safe dish

Coat the onion with olive oil (extra virgin)

Pour over some balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper (kosher salt; freshly ground black pepper)

Cover with foil and bake for at least an hour, maybe even 90 min., stirring occasionally until soft and sweet

Dressing for salad (approx measurements): 1/2 c olive oil, ¼ c balsamic, salt and pepper, tsp of Dijon mustard and a pinch of sugar, dash of sesame seeds, whisked

Throw in some greens – I also added a handful of chopped fresh dill, this took the dish to bistro level – take that Rundles

Heat a small pan, add some butter (butter is key, about 1 tsp)

Fry one egg – I had a brown free-range med. market egg, it was amazing and made me feel good about eating it, and it wasn’t too big which was perfect. Fry lightly (you don’t want it too browned) over med heat. Add onto your salad. If the yolk is still runny when you cut the egg it will add to your dressing and this is AMAZING. Trust me.

Eat, enjoy, forget that your boyfriend is in Montreal without you and eat some cheese (eating cheese is optional, you should feel full from this meal, I swear, but I’m a girl, and sometimes we like to snack on cheese, ok?).