Cook the Book Fridays – Baked Eggs with Kale

Baked Eggs with Kale

Spending your formative years watching classic movies can leave you with some curious notions. For the longest time, I thought that cracking wise was the telltale sign that someone was interested in you, which got me into trouble now and again when I tried to put it into practice. I also believed that a meal of eggs cooked late at night was the height of sophistication. (Later analysis made me suspect that it was just a way of connecting with Depression-era audiences.)

Still, there’s a shadow of that idea left in me, making me rather pleased with myself whenever I make an egg dish more complicated than sunny side up. And truly, eggs have a little bit of magic about them. Until we all discovered aquafaba last year, there really wasn’t anything that could rival eggs’ versatility.

Which is why I felt a little self-congratulatory when I pulled these baked eggs out of the oven. It’s hard not to feel pleased when the result looks so pretty, with swaths of goat cheese and garlicky breadcrumbs surrounding sunny yellow yolks. And with layers of ham and kale underneath, it’s just as pretty when you dish it out. There’s no evidence of that in this post, because it disappeared too quickly to document. A victim of deliciousness.

I baked a half-sized portion of this dish, but I made the full amount of kale and tripled the breadcrumb recipe. Which means that I can do it all over again this weekend. I’ll also have plenty of breadcrumbs left over after that, which is a wonderful thing. Full of butter, garlic, and thyme, they’re like a culinary secret weapon.

I even have an excuse to try it again soon. I’m in the midst of my yearly pre-holiday eating-down-the-freezer routine, so I used some ham that I had on hand. The original recipe calls for smoked salmon and I’ll need to do a taste comparison – in the interests of fairness, of course.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Cook the Book Fridays – Butternut Squash Crumble

Holiday dinner season starts this weekend in Canada, just in time for the markets to start filling with this year’s autumn harvest. Growing up, we always had yams or squash on our holiday table, but they were never the storied candied yams with marshmallows that I heard about from other families. My mother preferred to roast them and mash them with just enough butter, brown sugar, and nutmeg to enhance their natural flavour. It’s my favourite way to eat them still.

So, I looked at this week’s recipe carefully, worried that it skewed to the dessert on the dinner table side of things. But, this recipe makes the most of butternut squash’s savoury affinities, while using its sweetness to balance the dish. The crisp is a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan, and polenta, seasoned with sage and held together by butter and egg. Underneath, the squash is infused with homemade chicken stock and flavoured with thyme and shallots.

As much as I like sweet crumbles, with almost any sort of fruit, I’m excited to have met its savoury cousin. Now that I’ve given it a test-run, it can graduate to prettier baking dishs and shine on holiday tables this year, and I suspect, for years to come.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Baking with Julia – The Big Finish

Baking with Julia

All the way back in 2012, Tuesdays with Dorie started working their way through Baking with Julia. They’d recently finished baking through Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking, From My Home to Yours and wanted to continue with another of her books. Meanwhile, I’d been participating in French Fridays with Dorie, which was tackling Dorie’s terrific Around My French Table.

Thinking this would be a great project to do with my teenaged nieces, I jumped on board. I created a collaborative blog, The Family That Bakes Together…, and we were off to the races. Or the kitchen, really.

We didn’t last through the project. As my nieces became adults, it became too difficult to co-ordinate baking dates. But, I’ll always cherish the experiences we had in our Baking with Julia adventures and I’d like to think they will, too. I’ve followed along since, reading some of the posts of those who continued with the project, and I love finding occasions to bake from the book on my own.

Since the logistics of getting together to bake the group’s final recipe would have proved impossible, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite posts from our year-and-a-bit on the project. Though honestly, I read through all the posts with relish, enjoying the memories they evoked. If you have the opportunity to bake or cook (or do anything you love to do, really) with two or more generations, do it – it’s a wonderful experience.

Kat’s meditation on sisters and chocolate.

How my French-Canadian mother made Irish Soda Bread her signature bread.

Jessica’s debut post: Hungarian Shortbread.

How making biscotti revealed Kat’s power-hungry ambitions.

Jessica waxes poetic about pie and cake.

The most fun I’ve had writing a post, on this blog or my own: Bagel Throwdown.

Kat evokes Proust and Jessica makes madeleines.

The real stars of the show are the stalwarts that baked their way through the whole book. I can hardly wait to read their posts, detailing their experience with the project’s crowning glory – Martha Stewart’s Glorious Wedding Cake.

After you head over and congratulate them, you might want to consider joining in on the other project the group is working on – working through Dorie’s Baking Chez Moi. I join in when I can and everything I’ve made has been fantastic. Or, you can jump on board Dorie’s latest initiative, Cookies & Kindness, and help spread some joy.

Cook the Book Fridays – Sardine Rillettes

Sardine Rillettes

Doristas, we’ve been here before, when we were working our way through Around My French Table. And yet, there was still so much trepidation at the thought of this recipe making it into our monthly rotation that it sparked an entirely new new posting theme for Cook the Book Fridays. This is the first of our “extra edition” entries – whenever there’s five Fridays in the month, our admins will pick a recipe that group members find challenging for an optional posting on the final Friday.

Sardine Rillettes redux

I have a feeling that that all worries disappeared with the first bite – rillettes made with fish are satisfyingly savoury comfort food and sardines are especially suited to this treatment. David’s version uses a little cream cheese along with the traditional butter and it would be hard to imagine enjoying it as much without that creamy tanginess. His recipe is similar to Dorie’s, but hers is full of fresh herbs, while his has the briny herbaceousness of capers. Both are wonderful and perfect for a Friday night in, after a busy week. Especially if there are cocktails involved. I should look into that.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Inside Green: Greening the City, From the Inside Out

Spider plant from Inside Green

As our cities move upward and inward, with concrete replacing much of the green space that intertwined traditional neighbourhoods, we risk losing more than just a little elbow room. Urban green spaces are the only connection some of us have to nature and when they’re farther and fewer between, we may lose that connection altogether.

At the same time, social disconnection in our cities is increasing. The Vancouver Foundation‘s Connections and Engagement report has become famous for exposing the loneliness and social isolation that many Vancouverites feel and its findings highlight the challenges of finding community in this city and others.

Sue Biely was well-aware of these issues, but she was focused on solving another problem: resistance to climate change action. There is a gap between the science and the action taken by governments and at climate summits. There’s an even larger gap in the understanding of the urgency of these issues between climate change experts and much of the world’s populace, especially in privileged regions of the world.

She began wondering, “What would be the minimum intervention that could increase awareness of environmental issues?” Activism and larger interventions won’t have an impact on people who don’t, in her words, have a lived, visceral connection to the natural world.

She was also looking for an additive intervention, as most of what we’re told around climate change action is what we shouldn’t be doing. What kind of small action would add to someone’s life, while connecting them to the planet?

Sue Biely of Inside Green
Image courtesy of Inside Green

“A wacky idea that took a while to articulate.”

Eventually, Sue found the inspiration she needed in her own home. As someone who travelled for work for many years, her first act upon returning home would be to check in on her plants. Her attachment to her plants was the genesis of Inside Green, leading her to wonder what impact plants could have as an additive intervention in city-dwellers’ lives, first as vehicles to increase climate change awareness and later as a method of increasing green space and social connection in urban environments.

From there, the idea of creating a web of plant stewards across Vancouver grew into a pilot project, funded by a grant from Arts BC and Creative BC. Inside Green started with a website and 400 plants that were selected by Brian Minter, who chose 10 plant varieties that are easy to look after and easily propagatable. Sue said she was especially thrilled to have him on board, as she’d grown up listening to him on the radio, which helped to develop her own love of plants.

Inside Green Plant Stewards
Image courtesy of Inside Green

A network of plants.

The first questions they wanted to answer were whether or not people would want to become part of a network of plant stewards across the city and then, what percentage of those people would propagate their plants.

After an initial test with friends and family, they took the project to Vancouver Farmers Markets. Just as Brian Minter had, they understood the project’s mission right away and allowed them to book community tables at four of their markets, in parts of the city that are the most urbanized. The response was overwhelming.

There are now 500 Inside Green plants in the City of Vancouver, with a 30% propagation rate thus far, and with some plants in their third generation. That more than answers their initial questions.

Over the next six months, Inside Green will be asking a host of new questions and exploring avenues for funding and expanding the project. The hope is that Inside Green will spread to cities across the world, but they like to have local impacts as well. Their first round of containers for the plants, which act as “cribs” for plant propagation, were made from tomato cans that were removed from the waste stream in a Yukon community that has the capacity to collect recyclable materials, but has nowhere to send them on for recycling. They’re also looking at working with the local binners program to collect and prepare cans, going forward.

Another initiative they’re testing is using proceeds from corporate gifting of Inside Green plants to fund plants for low-income people in places like social housing or seniors’ facilities. Making green space available to as many people as possible, regardless of socio-economic status, is something Inside Green is keen to explore.

It will be interesting to see where they’ve taken the project a year from now.

Arachne the spider plant

“Everybody deserves to have something to nurture.”

Most of us know that houseplants improve the air quality in your home, pulling out pollutants and carbon dioxide, while replenishing the air with oxygen and water vapour. They also calm the mind and provide some of the same mood and health benefits as taking a walk in the woods. As Sue points out, “people relax, heal faster, and learn better” when they live and work with plants in their spaces.

But it’s another one of plants’ benefits that is key to their role in Inside Green. They provide their stewards with an opportunity to nurture and intimately interact with a living thing. This is something that is becoming rarer in this city and in urban environments around the globe. In Vancouver, it can be nearly impossible to find pet-friendly accommodations, private outdoor green space is being eliminated with every new development, and the wait lists for community gardens can make them seem like a retirement dream.

For Sue, the idea that, in ten or twenty years, many people may have no visceral connection to how nature works is sobering. But houseplants provide an intervention against alienation from nature, one that works in the most urban of environments, across economic circumstances. Caring for a plant requires attention to natural cycles, as plants grow at their own pace, with active and dormant periods. Inside Green’s plant stewards create a relationship with their plant that gives them a reason to connect – with their plant, with other people who have Inside Green plants from the same propagation lineage, and ultimately, with nature and the environment.

To join Inside Green’s network of plant stewards, start here. Alternatively, you can make friends with one of the many plant stewards who have plant babies on the way. Once my plant babies are ready to leave the nest, I’ll be sharing a follow up post, on my experience as a plant steward, another steward’s thoughts, and more.

Thanks to Sue Biely and Regan Gorman of Inside Green, for taking the time to talk to me about the project.

I learned about Inside Green from a friend who became a Plant Steward on a visit to Farmers Market. I reached out to them for interviews and signed up to be a Plant Steward. No compensation was received for this piece.

The Swiftest Month

Has September been as busy for you as it has been for me? It seems to have flown by so far.

I’m trying to remain present, though, even through the busiest of times. When the glory of Metro Vancouver’s mountains, forests, and oceans are all around us here, it would be a shame not to be awake to it. 

I haven’t been so busy that I’ve let go of doing some planning for the blog, though.

I’m starting to put together the list for my annual holiday book review series, starting with Better Baking by Genevieve Ko. If it’s any indication, this year’s series is going to knock it out of the park.

And I’m working on a feature of a local social and environmental initiative that I’m excited to tell you about.

In the meantime, I’ve got some cooking and baking to do for Cook the Book Fridays and Tuesdays with Dorie.

September shows no sign of slowing down yet.

Cook the Book Fridays – Gazpacho with Herbed Goat Cheese Toasts


The way I’ve been eating lately feels like summer’s last hurrah. I picked the last of the beans from my garden, leaving a few to dry on the vine for seed. Here and there, there are rogue zucchini and cucumbers left lurking in the garden, and I’m just about ready to make green tomato chutney.

Happily, I’ve still got a big bowl of ripe tomatoes on the counter, so my summer harvest isn’t quite spent. Most of them are destined for roasting, if they don’t get eaten out of hand first. Some more were set aside for this week’s Cook the Book Fridays selection, gazpacho. David describes it as an “icy-cold liquid salad” and it’s a perfect description. It also showcases the late summer flavours of tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper in a way that makes me long for summer to begin all over again.

I skipped the traditional slice of bread that’s used to thicken the soup, for a gluten-free version, and I don’t think the consistency suffered that much. My breadless gazpacho is in good company, including
Martha Rose Shulman
‘s version in the New York Times. I’ll make David’s version as written when I’m serving gluten-friendly eaters, but it’s nice to know it works so well for gluten-free eaters, too.

Rosemary-Oregano Goat Cheese Toasts

I served the soup in shot glasses, for a grazing Friday night supper. There was hummus and gluten-free crackers for M. Vegan. For me, the croutons for the soup became tartines, instead, slathered with goat cheese mixed with rosemary and oregano from my garden. And we both worked our way through a plateful of crudités.

I’m glad that squash and chanterelles are starting to appear, to assuage the pain of summer’s disappearance, otherwise, this meal would have put me into a winter’s-long funk. Even so, I’m glad there’s some soup left for tomorrow. I’m going to savour the last few tastes of summer for as long as possible.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Cook the Book Fridays – Spiced Meatballs with Sambal Oelek Sauce

I needed an easy recipe this week and our Cook the Books Friday assignment is exactly that. Thank goodness, because even so, I’m finishing this post as the clock nears midnight. 

I didn’t expect to come out to my parents’ place today, but my mother had a computer crisis that required some expert help, so earlier this week, I had her bring her hard drive to The Hackery. (They’ve helped so many people I know and I trust them.)

Her computer was ready for pick up today, so I packed up the moose mince I’d thawed in anticipation of today’s assignment, along with some seasonings I suspected she didn’t have at home, and of course, her favourite small dog. (I didn’t actually pack her, unless putting on her harness counts.)

We meandered back to her house, stopping for lunch and running a few errands. By the time we arrived, it was time to get started in the kitchen.

My Dad picked some Swiss chard and potatoes from the garden and prepared those while I worked on the meatballs. They’re meant to approximate merguez sausage, but we used sambal oelek in place of harissa, so they were more like merguez with a twist. 

They were delicious. Because moose meat is so lean, I added a heaping tablespoon of bacon fat to the mixture, which is always a good choice. The potatoes were seasoned with salt and pepper. The chard was stirfryed with a little lemon. The simplicity of the sides was perfect with the spicy meatballs. The sambal oelek mayo helped cool things down just the right amount. It was a perfect meal, especially when I found out my mother had made apple pie.

Now, I’m going to finish sorting out my mother’s computer, so she can end her enforced holiday from all the volunteer work she’s got waiting. 

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Baking Chez Moi – Cornmeal & Berry Cakes

Cornmeal and Berry Cakes

Muffins and cupcakes went through faddish phases and now are disdained by those who fancy themselves food sophisticates. But, little cakes have their place. They can be frozen and enjoyed over time. Their single-serving size might suggest individualism, but nothing speaks of sharing as much as a container full of them. A large cake is impressive, but it can also have a gatekeeper (like the poor host who served 1 centimetre by 1 centimetre pieces of cake to people he wanted to insult). Even mini-cupcakes are inherently polite and egalitarian.

They’re especially convenient for someone like me, who gets the urge to bake whether or not there are people to feed. My freezer is filled with projects savoury and sweet, awaiting occasions for sharing or celebration.

Some of these little cakes are going into the freezer, though fewer than usual. Sweet olive oil and polenta cakes are hard for me to resist. These also include a considerable portion of butter and are flavoured with lemon, blueberries, and a pinch of cardamom. The recipe calls for raspberries, but their season is over, so I used blueberries instead. The cardamom was a last-minute addition.

I over-filled the muffin tins, so they’re not as pretty as they might be. I think when people taste them, they’ll forgive me. I also think that those who turn their noses up at little cakes might find themselves betrayed by their sense of smell – I can’t imagine anyone being able to turn these down just because they’re cupcake-shaped, can you?

You can find the recipe here and if you really can’t stand the idea of a small, round cake, fret not – the recipe is really meant for mini-loaves.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here or here, along with posts about July’s other selected recipe, Summer Market Galette. And here’s the link for any other recipes members chose for this week’s Rewind Post.

Flavour On The Go: A Visit to the Maille Flavour Studio

Maille mustards Prisma illustration

Vancouverites are used to consoling themselves with our proximity to mountains, forests, and beaches. It takes our minds off the things we secretly wish we had closer proximity to – like the Maille boutiques that can be found in places like Paris, London, and New York.

Happily, Maille Canada brought the boutique experience to us last weekend, when they visited the Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival.

They were kind enough to invite a number of bloggers to an early afternoon media event to kick off the day’s activities. I was happy to say yes, hoping that I’d have a chance to sample some more of their Malossol pickles and to try some of their exclusive mustards. I did both, and more besides.

Maille treats and custom mustard

Maille had set up work stations where visitors could mix their own custom mustards (I used their Moutarde à l’Ancienne as a base, adding raspberries, rosemary, and black pepper). They had both their commercial and boutique mustards at the ready, with bread sticks and cornichons standing by. There was a cocktail station, serving tiny Maille crocks of the Que ca Maille!, which blends Dijon mustard with lemon, apple juice, thyme, and vodka. And there were waves of appetizers that made the most of Maille’s products.

Maille Gourmet Mustards

Tasting their various mustards one after the other is a good education. Their Chablis mustard is bracingly strong, but nuanced. Their flavoured mustards run from ones that could easily be eaten alone to those that are meant to complement other flavours or finish a dish.

Harry Lalousis, Maille mustard sommelier, highlighted mustard’s role as an ingredient in his presentation to us. He asked us to think about how the mustards in our kitchens can enhance the food we cook, while breaking free of recipes in favour of creativity and taste.

Maille Vinaigrette Demonstration

As a demonstration, he shared his vinaigrette ratio with us: 3:2:1 – olive oil:vinegar:mustard. Once you have that, you can let your creativity flow, based on what is in your pantry and what you’re preparing. He quickly made up two vinaigrettes on the spot, using his ratio and measuring by eye. His first vinaigrette made use of Maille’s raspberry vinegar and original Dijon mustard. The second, their white wine vinegar and mustard with White Wine, Mangoes and Thai Spices. The first is perfect for topping a salad of spicy greens. The second, marinating chicken, fish, or even tofu. I enjoyed the way he made creative cooking so accessible, while demonstrating ways to make the best of the products we’d been sampling.

Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival

Afterward, I was almost too content to visit the food truck festival and accompanying artisan market. I’m glad I didn’t skip them – the artisan market was full of BC producers of wine, spirits, and beer, along with artisans and makers. The food truck festival, with around 100 to choose from, provided enough exercise to whet even the most sated of the mustard samplers.

Artisan Market at The Anvil

I came away with contacts that I’d like to pursue in future blog posts and a full belly from the (more than I care to admit) treats I found at food trucks. I’ll be marking my calendar for next year and crossing my fingers that Maille’s Flavour Studio will make a return visit.

Maille mustards and cornichons

If you’re in Montréal, you’ll have the last chance this year to sample Maille’s boutique line – the Flavour Studio will be visiting Festival YULEAT next weekend. I’m tempted to fly out.

I received an invitation to the Flavour Studio press event, along with a jar of custom mustard and a jar of Maille’s Malossol Cornichons from Maille Canada, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.