Cook the Book Fridays – Le Grand Aioli

Le Grand Aioli

There was nothing grand about my aioli tonight, if it could even qualify as aioli at all.

I’d planned out which of the fresh markets I’d stop by for the produce, picking up local green beans that looked like they were freshly picked from someone’s back yard (the best!), fingerling potatoes, radishes, carrot, and red pepper. At home, I had cucumbers from my uncle’s garden and garlic from my Dad’s garden. All I needed were some fresh eggs, which I picked up at the organic grocery store.

I boiled some of the fingerlings and roasted the rest. I blanched the beans, then sliced the rest of the vegetables. I pulverized the minced garlic with salt in my mortar and pestle, then went to get the oil. I’d forgotten that I had only a few tablespoons of olive oil left and not much more grapeseed oil. Even though I’d planned to make only a portion of the recipe of aioli, this wouldn’t work.

My Plan B wasn’t much better – I managed to scrape about a tablespoon of mayonnaise from a nearly empty jar and mixed it with an alarming amount of the pulverized garlic, along with a bit of olive oil. Surprisingly, that tiny amount of very garlicky mayonnaise was enough. And even more surprisingly, it was a delicious addition to dinner. The only other accompaniment it needed (besides a little white wine) was homemade French bread from Mardi’s recipe.

Here’s to the power of peak of the season vegetables, home grown garlic, and very good bread.

No-Knead French Bread

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.

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Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

I stopped by Companion Books last week, a lovely used bookstore in Burnaby Heights. As much as I love new bookstores, I’m glad that there are still a number of well-curated used bookstores around. They carry titles that have disappeared from the shelves at new bookstores and even libraries, because they’re out of print or out of fashion. There’s a little triumph in finding a title that I’ve been desultorily seeking for years. I know I can find most things online, but the tactile pleasure of browsing through books is something I’d rather not give up. It’s also a great way to find new favourites that you might have overlooked if you’d only been looking online. The landscape of online reviews can be disappointingly homogenous, unless you already know what you’re looking for.

The Silver Palate Cookbook

I picked up a well-loved copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook, one that I was a little too young to be aware of when it came out. It’s like a handbook of ’80s food, both the celebrated and (often unfairly) maligned. I was surprised at how many now-familiar dishes it contains – ones that seemed exciting and new to my family in the restaurants we visited when I was young. It also serves as a cheat sheet for the entertaining that my parents and their friends did through my teen years. The Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken that I learned from the Urban Peasant was in this book first, along with all the tarragon, raspberry, quiche, and mousse recipes that first became ’80s cliché and now have been reclaimed.

What surprised me even more was how in tune it is with how I cook today, French-inflected, grounded in the mostly English traditions that pass for “Canadian” or “American” cooking, incorporating elements from across the globe. What’s changed today, of course, is that the European elements of cooking and eating in Canada and the States aren’t dampening the presence of all the other cuisines that are present here (including indigenous ones).

Its influence could also be seen in the magazines that came to our house, like Chatelaine and Canadian Living. I learned a lot about cooking from them, probably even more than I did from the cookbooks on my mother’s shelf. Cookbooks have a much larger presence in my cooking life today, as anyone who has read my blog probably knows. But, there are still terrific magazines like Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Ricardo that distill the influences of today’s cooking landscape for home cooks. Along with a host of blogs and cooking websites that can teach you anything you can think of.

It seems as though we’re more in tune with the influences that are rippling through the cultural landscape these days, mostly because there’s a legion of commentators and aficionados ready to break down the latest trends as soon as they become apparent.

All of which leaves me curious: What were your favourite cookbooks or magazines when you were young? Are there classics like The Silver Palate Cookbook that influenced you, though you discovered them much later? Where do you look for inspiration and edification today? Also, do you do all your book shopping online or are you a brick and mortar fan?

I’ll leave you with a recipe that’s very much in the spirit of how I cook today, but harks back to flavours popular in my early childhood (not with me, though – don’t worry!).

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

There are so many wonderful ways to eat peaches and I’m happy to try them all – grilled, in a pie or tart, in cakes, in chutneys and salsas, or just eaten out of hand. But, my favourite is peach crisp. If I don’t make at least one peach crisp each summer, I feel like I’ve missed the whole season.

Ginger and peaches are a classic combination, one I’ve posted about before. Canadian whiskey, generally called rye, is also another good companion for peaches. Together, they’re an improvement upon a ’70s standard drink that I can remember my grandparent, great-aunts and great-uncles drinking at barbecues when I was very small. Personally, I’d take this crisp over one of those any day, though if you’ve got a lot of liquid in the bowl after macerating the peaches, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to strain some of the juice into a glass, topping it up with soda and a little more rye. Now, that’s a cook’s treat to keep to yourself.

1 8X5X2 baking dish

6 – 8 ripe, juicy peaches
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/8 cup Canadian rye whisky
1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet your peaches happen to be)

Topping

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter, cubed

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Peel and chop the peaches into bite-sized chunks. Stir in the fresh ginger, rye, and brown sugar and leave the peaches to marinate for ten minutes or so.

To make the topping: Whisk together the brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, spices, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a crumbly texture.

Put the peaches into the baking dish, then cover them with the oat topping.

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes.

Cook the Book Fridays – Stuffed Vegetables & Babas with Pineapple

Duck Fat Potatoes

I have an ice cream problem, and not the one you’d think. I’ve stuffed the freezer with homemade tomato sauce, berries, rhubarb,and all the other summery goods that I’ll be grateful for in winter. But, I’ve left no room for the bowl of my ice cream maker. So, instead of apricot kernel ice cream, I’m catching up on the other two recipes for August’s Cook the Book Fridays, which I made on time and then neglected to post about.

Stuffed Vegetables (Légumes Farcis)

Stuffed Vegetables

I made these at the beginning of the month, but I was just so busy that I didn’t have an opportunity to post about it. I made the full amount of these, sending some home with my mother so that she could have an easy dinner component while my Dad was away. I was grateful for the same with the ones I kept.

I used eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and tomato as the vessels for this dish and I used ground moose in the filling. I changed the seasonings a little, adding some smoked paprika and mixing it with fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe, finishing the dish with Italian parsley and basil from my garden.

I enjoyed these, but they were a little drier than my usual recipe, which incorporates rice. They made for a good meal, though, with duck fat potatoes. (Hey, that makes three catch up recipes this week!) You can see the potatoes at the top of this post.

Kirsch Babas with Pineapple

Babas with Pineapple

These were fun to make. They’re a little like popovers, but they seem so brittle when they come out of oven. I thought they’d disintegrate when I gave them their syrup bath, but they plumped and shone, becoming miraculously resilient. The pineapple is a terrific accompaniment for these, and so easily made, once the messiness of breaking it down is through. I stuck with rum for these, simply because I couldn’t find kirsch at the closest liquor store.

I’ll leave you with a photo of a dish only tangentially related to the group – a tomato and goat cheese tart that I made to test-drive Mardi’s pâte brisée from In the French Kitchen with Kids. It was so easy to work with and baked up beautifully!

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

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

Tuesdays With Dorie – Cold Chocolate Crémeux, Wine-Poached Cherries and Lots of Crumbs & Rosemary-Parm Cookies

It’s one of those rare months when I’ve had the opportunity to make everything on the schedule for this month’s Tuesdays with Dorie picks. I even managed to post about them, twice!

Cold Chocolate Crémeux, Wine-Poached Cherries and Lots of Crumbs

Cold Chocolate Crémeux, Wine-Poached Cherries and Lots of Crumbs

The first dessert is one I’ve been meaning to try since I got the book. Cherry season is fleeting, though, and I’ve never managed to get ’round to this one until I had the extra prompting of having it on the Baking Chez Moi schedule. I’ve been missing out. All the components of this dessert are delicious in their own right and together they make a beautiful and delicious treat. I made this dessert on the same day as I made the Babas with Pineapple for Cook the Book Fridays. I gave some of each to my parents, with the following instructions:

Baba + pineapple + whipped cream.

Crémeux + cherries + cocoa crumbs.

They quite happily followed (then flouted) my instructions and loved every bit of them.

As did I. The crémeux was a joy to make and managed to be perfectly smooth and creamy without straining. I love the texture that gelatin gave the pudding, which was so rich and chocolatey that it could pass for ganache. The cherries were wonderful poached in wine and I made extra, which gave my morning yogurt a little sophistication once the crémeux was gone.

The crumbs, though. I’m not sure how happy I am to know how easy it is to make them. They were incredible in the dessert and could easily be added to, well, almost everything. It reminds me of whenever I’ve made the caramelized Rice Krispies for Dorie’s Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars. Everyone wants them in everything.

The best part of this week’s dessert is how easy it was to schedule and make an impressive multi-part dessert. I’m considering organizing a neighbourhood dessert party this winter, mostly because it helps me distribute my baked goods. I’d love to have a dessert bar loaded with components of desserts that people can mix and match, as my parents did with the desserts I left for them.

Rosemary-Parm Cookies

Making the Rosemary-Parm Cookies

I’ve been procrastinating about this one, even though I was the one who suggested it for the schedule. My rosemary plant is prolific, I’ve got all the ingredients on hand, and I can’t wait to try them. What I haven’t had is a good occasion for them. These are cookies I want to pass around, seeing what everyone thinks. So, I’m making them as I write this post – something I do quite a lot, come to think of it. My compromise was to divide the dough into three, one small one to bake off tonight and two larger disks for when the occasion calls for some adventurous cookies.

The dough itself comes together beautifully and my hands and my kitchen are still fragrant with rosemary-sugar. I love Dorie’s trick of rubbing aromatics into sugar more than just for its effectiveness at distributing flavour. It’s a soothing process that engages the senses, making me more attuned to the texture and fragrance of the dough as I work it in turn. The perfume it leaves behind makes its hour-long rest in the refrigerator seem longer, though.

My impatience was warranted, by the way. These cookies are sandy in the best sablé cookie manner, they’re flavour is both delicate and earthy, barely sweet and just a touch salty. The rosemary and Parmesan don’t overwhelm, while the pecans give a nutty undertone rather than taking centre stage.

It’s a balanced, pretty, delicious little cookie and I’m looking forward to taking out the remaining discs of dough when it’s time to share.

Rosemary-Parm Cookies

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this month’s recipes from Baking Chez Moi here and here.

AND

August’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Baking Chez Moi – Almond, Ginger, and Olive Oil Cake

Almond, Ginger, and Olive Oil Cake

People are hard, including me. Even the simplest interactions can so easily go awry and the work that it takes to negotiate one another is life-long. I mean, it’s worth it when we forge friendships that can withstand misunderstandings and differences, when we accomplish things despite the obstacles that are so often one another, when we love the imperfection in ourselves and others.

And on those days when those things are hard to envision, I will show you I care by baking way too much, way too often. It’s also how I show a little care for myself, because the challenges of the kitchen may also be life-long, but they are manageable, predictable, and measurable mostly against my last effort. I am kind to myself in the kitchen, in a way that I am not often in other spheres of endeavour. I’ll never win any prizes for icing work, but you’ll enjoy every last bite and that’s enough for me.

So, in the middle of a difficult day, in the middle of a difficult week, I took the time to bake these cakes. I made them in mini-loaf pans so that I can freeze some to share later, in gestures that are equally for my own pleasure and that of the recipients. I also made them to share with you, in a probably mostly selfish act of connection which may (I hope) bring some pleasure to you, too.

Almond, Ginger, and Olive Oil Cake

Especially if you go ahead and make some for yourselves. I used almond flour in place of hazelnut, because it’s not the sort of week that I’m looking for any ingredients I don’t already have on hand. But ginger and olive oil taste just as good against a background of almond and polenta, I suspect. These cakes are moist and dense in the best possible way and I’m almost sad to put the rest away in the freezer. I won’t be any longer, though, when I have the opportunity to share them.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this month’s recipes from Baking Chez Moi here.

Dorie’s Cookies – Chocolate-Raspberry Thumbprints

Chocolate-Raspberry Thumbprints

I’ve been working a lot in the vegetable garden lately: moving my decade-old thyme from a pot that it literally burst out of to a bed near my fig tree; repotting the miraculously long-lived oregano that was the thyme’s companion; training my squash and mouse melon vines along their trellises; harvesting whatever’s been ripening along the way (quite a lot of kale this year). But, I’ve also been planting more pollinator-friendly perennials and leaving a lot of my plants to the bees this year. I’m grateful for all the goodness pollinators give us and I want to nourish them as long as I can before this neighbourhood is converted to a tower-filled concrete heat island.

I’ve not harvested many squash blossoms this year and I’ve let more of my herbs go to seed than is prudent for human purposes. In return, my fruits and vegetables have been plentiful (though I didn’t plant as much as I would have liked this year). I’ve also worked my way through loads of berries, cherries (sour and sweet), figs (from my own tree), and am deep into stone fruit now. I just picked a tromboncino squash that barely fits into my refrigerator and I have almost more green beans than I know what to do with. That’s a lie, there are never enough freshly picked green beans.

Some of the things I've baked and grown this summer

I’ve managed to do a bit of baking, too. This week’s cookie might not include anything from my own garden, but its ingredients are pollinators’ gifts that I’m grateful for. The combination of raspberry and chocolate is a classic and irresistible one and these cookies showcase that beautifully.

Dorie’s Do-Almost-Anything doughs are ones to keep in mind any time you’ve got a lot of cookie-baking in mind. Both the vanilla and chocolate produce quadruple batches of cookie dough and Dorie provides four recipes for each in Dorie’s Cookies.

At this time of year, my freezer is a little full, so I only made a half batch of the chocolate dough. I only baked 15 cookies, though, so I still have a bag bursting full of the prepared balls for future cookies. I’ll make more of these, for certain, but I may also experiment with fillings and toppings, too.

I sent a dozen of the cookies home with my parents, who have reported that they love them, and kept three for myself to enjoy. Normally, I would not be so abstemious, but I have at least a pound of cherries in the fridge, a fig version of Feast’s lunar cake just baked, and a tiny apple pie, too. So, I’m going to wait to bake more of these cookies, even though I wish I hadn’t sent so many of them out of the house!

I’ve made rolled out cookies with this dough in the past and have found it very easy to work with. It’s even easier to form into balls and press the indentation for the jam with a knuckle. I used a raspberry jam that only ran a little, firming up nicely once the cookies had cooled. After drizzling a bit of melted chocolate on each, they were done and delicious.

I can’t promise I’ll make it all the way to fall without making some more of these, even if it’s high stone fruit season and I really should be making some pies…

July’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Cook the Book Fridays- Duck Fat Cookies

Duck fat

I think many of us grew up in homes where there was a jar of bacon or chicken fat in the fridge, ready to be used whenever a dish needed a boost of fatty flavour. I now have a jar of duck fat in my refrigerator and I think it’s going to be rapidly and well-used. I’ve just made one thing with it so far, and it’s not what you’d expect.

Duck fat is the secret ingredient in the sablé-like cookies I made this afternoon. The cookies manage to be crisp and melt-in-your-mouth all at once, with salt playing against the caramelly sweetness and vanilla and cognac adding a little depth to the flavour, as well. The cookies are studded with currants, which are due for a resurgence in popularity, I’d say. They’re perfect in these cookies, tart, sweet and soaked in cognac.

Duck Fat Cookie mise en place

I had a bit of fun with these on Instagram over the past couple of days, first posting the photo of the jar of duck fat, then posting the mise en place for the cookies as an extra hint. No one guessed, but I got some great suggestions for what to do with the leftovers. First, I’m going to catch up on the duck fat potatoes that everyone from Cook the Book Fridays has already made and raved about. Then, I’m going to try duck fat popcorn, which another commenter suggested. I looked for a recipe, and found a great one from one of our own, Trevor of Sis Boom Blog, along with some advice on how duck fat can improve your life (or at least your dinner parties).

Duck Fat Cookies

I only baked half of the cookies today and froze the other half. I don’t expect this batch to last past tomorrow. Next time I’m in need of goodwill, I’ll bake the rest of them.

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.

Dorie’s Cookies – Cast-Iron Pan Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Cast-Iron Pan Chocolate Cookie Bars

My plan for today was to come home, bake the Pistachio-Berry Slims and do a two-in-one Dorie’s Cookies post for today’s Tuesdays with Dorie. Instead, I hopped on the 99 bus, switched to the Number 15, and climbed the hill at Queen Elizabeth Park to Bloedel Conservatory. A once-in-a-decade event is happening right now and I decided to do a little bandwagoneering.

The corpse flower only blooms for a day or two, so it’s not something that can wait until the weekend. I managed to get there during a lull in the line up and was able to spend some time with the (surprisingly not smelly) bloom, along with the plants and birds that inhabit the conservatory. It’s quite a beautiful flower, even when not completely open as I saw it, the fabled scent associated with it gives its viewers an air of bravado, and its size is impressive. It’s also a rare flower, both in timing and number. But, I don’t think that’s the whole of its appeal. Its ephemerality ties the rest of these qualities together, making it irresistible to news outlets and spectators alike. There’s a powerful metaphorical appeal when something this singular takes so long to come to fruition, then withers in so short a span.

QE Park and Seasons in the Park

Or at least, that’s where my thoughts turned afterward, over an Aperol Spritz and artichoke leaves at Seasons in the Park. I went there to escape from the heat and fortify myself for a stroll through the quarry gardens and then the trek back to my side of town. Thank goodness for the lounges of fine dining restaurants. You can come in as you are (in my case, post-corpse flower viewing) and have access to the full menu. It was a good afternoon, but by the time I got home, I had just enough left in me to water the garden and have a proper bit of dinner. Baking was not in the cards.

Luckily, I’d made the cast-iron pan chocolate chip bars a few weeks ago, which put me in the (rare for me) position of being ready for the week’s post. Just like today’s activities, my version of these bars was a deviation from plan. I have a very small cast-iron pan, so I already knew I’d be making them in a springform. What I sacrificed in caramelly browning, I gained in cakey moistness. I was also low on shredded coconut, so rather than go to the store, I threw in some cocoa nibs. The squares still had a pleasing coconut taste, but the nibs amped up the chocolate flavour and added a bit of crunch, too.

I sliced these up in thin wedges and can attest that they’re equally good served with berries and whipped cream or unadorned. I gave three large portions away and still had more than a few days’ worth of dessert for myself. Another example of a successful detour, I’d say.

July’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Cook the Book Fridays – Baba Ganoush & Tourteau Fromager

Baba ganoush

I’ve got a pretty straightforward post today, featuring two recipes that I’ll revisit.

This week’s recipe is baba ganoush, one of those spreads with seemingly endless variations. David Lebovitz’ take on this is particularly good. A little heat, just enough garlic and lemon, fresh parsley and a nice ratio between the eggplant and tahini. I used parsley from my balcony garden, which this year is all flowers and herbs and topped the finished dish with olive oil and za’atar. Tonight I scooped it up with some seedy crackers and tomorrow I’m looking forward to using it in a veggie sandwich. I’ll also be packing up some to share, as this recipe makes a generous amount.

Tourteau fromager

I also managed to make the Tourteau Fromager last weekend. I shared it with my parents and they had it with fresh berry compote several days in a row (as did I). My father can’t stand American-style cheesecake, but he loved this. (I’m going to have to bring him to Uncle Tetsu to see if he likes that style of cheesecake, too.) I’ve made Dorie’s version of this before and this recipe is just as good. I really enjoyed working with the tart dough, it was supple and easy to coax into the pan. This batch had a gorgeous yellow colour from the farm-fresh egg that I used, too.

Here’s hoping for a quiet summer full of good food. Do you think that’s a realistic wish, these days?

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

Dorie’s Cookies – Cocoa-Tahini Cookies with Sesame Crunch

Cocoa-Tahini Cookies with Sesame Crunch

We’re in the midst of a heatwave, so I baked these cookies quite late this evening and I only baked three of them. Luckily, they all turned out beautifully, because I wouldn’t have had much leeway for outtakes. And even more luckily, this cookie dough holds well in the refrigerator, so I can wait a day or two for the temperature to drop before baking off the rest. I left them in the oven just long enough to become slightly crunchy around the edges, which is a wonderful thing in a cookie.

These almost didn’t get made, because the sesame crunch reminded me so much of one of my favourite supermarket treats, Sesame Snaps. (In fact, those who are intimidated by caramel-making might pick up a pack of Sesame Snaps to use in place of the homemade crunch. But, you shouldn’t be intimidated – hot sugar is easier to work with than people realize.) I kept my baser instincts in check and saved the crunch for baking. It adds so much to the texture of this cookie and plays so well against the give of the chopped chocolate.

I’ll make these again, perhaps for this year’s cookie swap season. I suspect they’ll be popular.

Swedish Visiting Cake Bars

I’ve been pretty behind with blogging and I have been wondering when I’d make the Swedish Visiting Cake Bars this month. But then, I realized I already have (and loved them) way back in November of 2016. I’m not sure why I haven’t made them again, except that there are so many recipes to try and so few treat-eaters in my life. So, I’ve actually completed both Dorie’s Cookies recipe selections for this month! Here’s what I said about it on Instagram at the time, “It’s a thin layer of butter-rich cake flavoured with vanilla and almond topped by a meringue of egg white, powdered sugar, and sliced almonds – so good!”

Just a short post tonight, as I have been feeling a bit sapped of energy and optimism this week, the former lapped up by the heat and the latter ground out by the news. Cookies help.

June’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.