Those Old-Fashioned Favourites


Lately, I’ve been returning to the kind of cooking I did when I was a kid, the sorts of recipes that my mother taught me to get started for her when I got home from school, or the baking projects that I learned from the cookbooks that lived on the shelf above the telephone table in the kitchen.

Today, I improvised a clean-out-the fridge beef stew and it was reminiscent of the seventies-style stews of my childhood, rather than the French bistro classic style I adopted as an adult.

For dessert, I pulled out a very old recipe for applesauce cookies and was pleased to discover that it didn’t need any adjustment at all. It was rich with old school apple spices, with a party trick half cup of cold coffee thrown in for a little depth. Raisins and walnuts made for a nice textural contrast to the softness of the cookie. There’s something to be said for dipping back into one’s culinary past.

 
My favourite throwback recipe of the last little while was the soup I threw together last week. Homemade chicken stock, chopped leftover chicken, green split peas, smoked paprika, a rind from some smoked Parmesan, and a bunch of veggies and herbs – I may write it out as a real recipe at some point or just accept it as one of an infinite number of variations, rarely repeated. This iteration was so well balanced, I might have to try to recreate it, after all.

There are more sophisticated dishes that I can whip up without reference to a recipe, but humble, homely, ancient ones like these have a special satisfaction. It’s returning to the source so that, refreshed, we can regain our appetite for exploration and experimentation.

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.

Garden Succotash with Cornichons

Garden Succotash with Cornichons

In high summer there are few things that make me as happy as pulling fresh food out of my own garden. Well, maybe a delivery from my parents of Chilliwack corn and whatever they’ve been growing in their own garden.

When that coincides with a delivery from Maille Canada, I start feeling ecstatic.

Maille Cornichons with Caramelized Onions

Maille was kind enough to send me a jar of the newest edition to their range of cornichons – Gherkins with Caramelized Onions. Knowing how good their cornichons are is a liability. I found it difficult not to open the jar before I’d settled on a recipe to use them in. This would have been a very different post then, as they don’t last long around here.

Willpower prevailed and I came up with a version of one of my favourite side dishes, succotash, to showcase the flavour of these wonderful cornichons. Succotash is one of those infinitely variable dishes that can stray very far from its original components (corn, lima beans, and tomatoes), while still retaining its character.

I’ve made a really good winter slow cooker version with edamame and frozen corn, but my favourite time to make it is right now, when the best of the summer’s corn is at its height.

I love corn on the cob – who doesn’t? But fresh corn has so much more to offer – I eat it raw in salads, cooked with the cob in soup, and sliced off the cob in almost any dish I can work it into.

As for cornichons, I’ll eat them straight out of the jar, but love to add them (and their brine) to salads, meat dishes – or again – any dish I can work them into.

These cornichons are flavoured with caramelized onions in a brine rich with grape must, wine vinegar, and mustard and coriander seeds. They’re delicately piquant and provide a perfect acid that enhances the fresh summer flavours of this succotash without overwhelming them.

In winter, I want a succotash that’s almost a stew, but in summer I like to add raw vegetables (like cherry tomatoes) to the mix. It’s much more like a warm salad and the brine works with the sauce provided by the corn, Roma tomato, and butter beans, to act like a vinaigrette.

We ate the succotash with roasted new potatoes and beets and steamed green beans – all fresh from the garden. It made for a hearty vegan meal. But, this could easily act as a barbecue side. It would be particularly great with grilled pork chops or chicken, along with a piquant potato salad

It’s also adaptable to whatever you’re bringing home from the fresh markets or pulling from your own garden. The green beans could have easily been added to the succotash, the butter beans replaced by Lima beans, Borlotti beans, or edamame. But don’t skip the cornichons or their brine. You’d regret it.

Garden Succotash with Cornichons again

Garden Succotash with Cornichons

Makes 6-8 servings

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 ears (4 cups of kernels) fresh corn
  • 2 398 mL (14 oz) cans of butter beans
  • 1 sweet pepper (any colour), diced
  • 1 Roma tomato, coarsely diced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 6 Maille Cornichons (Gherkins) with Caramelized Onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbsp brine, from the jar of cornichons

Cut the kernels from the cob using a chef’s knife, while standing the corn cob in a large bowl. Slowly slide the knife under the kernels, keeping as close to the cob as you can (and keeping your fingers well out of the way). Discard the cobs and set aside.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or pan. Add the onion, with a pinch of the salt, cooking until translucent and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two more, until soft.

Turn the heat to medium-low. Add the corn kernels, butter beans, sweet pepper, Roma tomato, and thyme sprigs, with the salt and a generous grinding of fresh black pepper. Stir well. Cook until the corn is barely tender and all ingredients are heated through, about 7-10 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Add the cherry tomatoes and cornichons, with a tablespoon of brine from the jar. (Make sure you get some of the caramelized onions along with the brine.) Mix well and serve immediately.

Overhead view of Garden Succotash with Cornichons

I will be tracking down these cornichons as soon as this jar is empty. They’re a staple in my cooking and on my snack table, too. They’ve taken their place alongside the Maille’s mustards that fill almost an entire shelf on the door of my refrigerator.

But, you don’t have to live vicariously through me – these cornichons are in wide release across Canada. And if you live in Metro Vancouver, you’ll also soon have an opportunity to sample some of Maille’s more exclusive offerings, in person. Maille is going to be bringing their Flavour Studio to New Westminster’s Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Fest on August 20th. They will be holding culinary workshops and mixing custom gourmet mustards. Their exclusive fresh mustard will be on tap and headmaster mustard sommelier Harry Lalousis will be there to demonstrate ways to embellish your cooking with Maille’s mustards.

I’ll be there and I’ll be writing about the day shortly afterward, so if you don’t join me, you’ll have to settle for experiencing it all vicariously. I know what my choice would be.

I received a jar of Maille’s Gherkins with Caramelized Onions from Maille Canada, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

How to Cook a Book

Cookbooks I love

If you’re like me, you have shelves full of cookbooks, many of which look as pristine as the day you bought them. Even those of us who love to cook get distracted by busy lives and rely on the same handful of recipes, when we’re not getting take out. We all have dog-eared, bedraggled cookbooks that are full of stains, notes, and barely attached pages. We’ve learned the rhythms of the author’s techniques, stocked our pantry with the book’s basics, and have grown confident enough to improvise or adapt when needed.

It can be hard for new books to compete. Though they may be full of bookmarks from the first read through, they’re often neglected after the first one or two recipes, probably because there’s another new cookbook to peruse on the night stand. Cookbook clubs, online or off, offer a way to ensure you’re making the most of a cookbook while helping create a community of like-minded cooks.

I’ve been blogging through cookbooks since 2010 and it’s built community for me along with kitchen chops. If you’re considering joining a cook-along group, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Be True to Yourself

There’s no right way to write a cook-along post. Some people chart their experience with each recipe step-by-step. Others connect their assignments to stories and memories. You might be interested in writing about the roots of ingredients, recipes, or cuisines. Another blogger might weave these meals into an ongoing record of their lives. It’s not just structure that makes a blogging group work, it’s creativity.

Pros: Finding your voice is an enormous part of what makes blogging worthwhile.

Cons: If you’re struggling to find an angle, you won’t connect with your project or your readers.

Be Consistent

Make a commitment, whether that’s to cook every single recipe in the book or to participate every second month. Whether your goal is to make better use of your cookbooks, get into the kitchen more often, or begin a writing practice, you’ve got to have some structure. Your schedule doesn’t need to be precisely the same as your cook-along group’s schedule, you just have to find what works for you and stick to it.

Pros: Finding a schedule that works for you takes things from whim to project.

Cons: When things get tough, the tough get writer’s block.

Be Flexible

Illness, vacation, or work crunches can cause your cook-along to take a back seat. Don’t worry – that’s what ‘catch up’ lists are for. Your family’s health restrictions or food preferences might not fit with every recipe. Adapt the recipe, make one or some of the components, or skip it altogether. There’s no such thing as a cookbook that’s tailored to your needs and tastes precisely, unless it’s your own. If you can’t make a project work with your life, it’s not going to work at all.

Pros: If you’re too rule-oriented, you might not enjoy yourself.

Cons: If you’re too flexible, you just might find you’ve stopped.

Be Accessible

It can be frustrating to read through a post and find out that the only way to comment is to sign up for a third party commenting system – consider relaxing your restrictions a little and rely on spam filters or moderation a bit more. If it’s too hard to comment, your fellow cooks may give up trying. In a similar vein, when you’re posting your link for an assigned recipe, make sure it’s a link to the post itself, not your blog. If you’re not getting comments, it could be that folks got frustrated trying to find the right blog entry.

Pros: Being part of the conversation is what makes cook-along groups tick.

Cons: Managing spam can be time-consuming.

Be Generous

Comment on everyone’s blog, whether their following is large or small, even if you think you’d never cross paths in your offline lives. When done well, every exchange is a gift, allowing participants to learn from each other, have fun, and even form real-life friendships. Don’t be the person who doesn’t reciprocate – in the end, you’ll be the one who won’t want to stick around.

Pros: This is how you build online community.

Cons: If you’re part of a big cook-along, you’re going to have to schedule time for commenting, as well as cooking, photography, and writing.

Be Open

What started as a cook-along project for you might morph into developing your own recipes, writing reviews of cookbooks or restaurants, or spur your creative urges in another direction entirely. There’s value in participating in one of these groups from beginning to end, but there’s also much to be gained from joining mid-stream, or letting go of the group when your interests change.

Pros: Following the direction of your creative energies will keep your output fresh.

Cons: When you’re ready to move on, you’ll have to work harder to maintain the community you’ve created.

After all of that, you might be wondering, where do I sign up? There are a wealth of cook-along groups out there. Search by cookbook, cuisine, or meal and you’ll be sure to find some. To get you started, here are links to the groups I’m currently participating in:

And if the idea of joining an online cook-along just doesn’t appeal to you, don’t despair. That’s not the only way to cook a book.

Want to go your own way?

Chart your own course through your cookbook shelves, like Ei, of the Cookbook Immersion Project. Make your blog into a record of your hits and misses, what you’ve learned, and what you’ve yet to master. With no deadlines or requirements, you can visit and re-visit the books on your shelves as you see fit.

Pros: Explore your cookbook library at your own pace, according to your own tastes.

Cons: If you’re not a self-starter, you might be back at square one.

Not online? No problem!

Cookbook clubs are the new potlucks, according to a wave of recent media trend watching. Recruit a cadre of home cooks and plan regular dinners, with each participant bringing a dish from a cookbook you’ve chosen. Unlike other book clubs, the meat of the discussion is right on the table.

Pros: A delicious, multi-course meal, made by many hands. Conversation, conviviality, and analysis. No pressure to document each dish photographically or otherwise.

Cons: People are coming over! If a meal isn’t documented on the internet, did it really happen?

Once you’ve found your way, you’ll be a more skilled, more creative, more adventurous cook. Just don’t neglect those old favourites completely. Never repeating a recipe can be as much of a fault as making the same ones over and over.

A Pleasant Pause

Butter Baked Goods Cupcake

I’m still dreaming about this cupcake I had at Butter Baked Goods on Monday. It was chocolate cake topped with raspberry buttercream, not too sweet, deeply flavoured, with a perfect crumb and a light, substantial icing.

I took the week off from blogging, concentrating on celebrations and more quotidian pursuits, but I’ll be back next week.

In the meantime, I’m considering whipping up some buttercream from one of the Butter Baked Goods cookbooks this weekend, along with some cake to anchor it.

A Medley of Taste – Simply Delish Soup and Salad

Calico Bean Soup

As I told you on Tuesday, Kevin and I did some shopping at the Fraser Valley Food Show last weekend. We’ve been happily eating our way through our finds ever since.

Today, I have something of guest post from Kevin, reviewing one of the products he was especially eager to try, Simply Delish Soup and Salad:

Simply Delish Soup

On Saturday April 2nd, I went with Teresa to the Fraser Valley Food Show. As someone who has been celiac since my birth in 1971, and who has been vegan for almost a year and a half, I was a bit skeptical about finding much that I would like at the show. I say this even knowing full well how much things have changed for people with celiac disease since the 70s and for vegans in the last five years.

The place that immediately caught my eye was Simply Delish Soup and Salad. Their display booth was outstanding. I couldn’t stop looking at their pre-packaged soups, as they looked incredibly pretty. I believe everything but one item was both gluten-free and vegan. The service was friendly but not overbearing. Brad was very helpful in explaining their product and I thought it was cool he was aware of Teresa’s One Wet Foot blog. I ended up leaving with their Calico Soup.

I initially thought that $9.00 was a lot to pay for this pretty package of beans and spices. Once I realized how much soup it makes, I realized I was wrong – it makes a lot of soup for $9.00. Teresa even helped me do some quick math about how much it would cost otherwise. Usually one pays a lot extra for convenience, but not here. The soup couldn’t have been easier to make – just put it into a slow cooker and add water. As someone who likes convenience with vegan/gluten-free cooking, I can’t even begin to explain how much I loved the simplicity of this.

Often with pre-packaged vegan and gluten-free food, not only is it over-priced but it’s also loaded with unhealthy ingredients. This soup couldn’t be farther from that – the nutrient value is extremely high in this soup. I can’t recommend this soup enough. I was happy to hear that Brad & Chelsey sell their product in Vancouver, as we plan on having much more of it in this household.

Medley of beans in the slow cooker

I agree with Kevin’s assessment – we enjoyed a delicious soup with minimal effort – we threw in some diced celery and carrot, as we had it on hand, but I suspect it would have been just as enjoyable without. I also added some salt just before serving. Brad and Chelsey don’t add any salt to their products, which I appreciate for two reasons – salt makes dried pulses tough and I like to control the amount of salt in our food. We like just enough salt in our food to enhance the flavours.

There’s a place for soup mixes like this in our lives – made with healthy ingredients, guaranteed gluten-free and vegan, great as is while easy to customize, and perfect for days when hands on cooking isn’t feasible. They’re a great addition to our pantry.

Overhead shot of calico bean soup

We received no consideration for our review of this product. It’s part of an occasional series of posts highlighting locally made products that we buy and enjoy.

Cottage Cooking Club – March 2016

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Like a horse as it nears the barn, I seem to be speeding through recipes as we reach the end of our time with River Cottage Veg in this group. This month, I managed seven recipes, two of which were ones I’d missed when they’d come up in previous months’ selections.

It’s made for a delicious March.

Nachos with refried beans

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There are as many recipes for refried beans as there are cooks that make them. Hugh’s version is a pantry cupboard wonder, using things I always have on hand. I like the chunky texture, the gentle heat from the fresh red chile and hot smoked paprika, the smooth taste of the cannellini (or borlotti) beans, and the use of grated fresh tomato. I made this twice – once with cannellini beans and once with borlotti and they were equally good. My only change to the recipe was to add 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste along with the fresh tomatoes. That might not be necessary at the height of summer, when tomatoes are at their best, but it really helped bring the flavours together for this late winter version.

As for the nachos, I made a vegan version and a conventional one. I have two small ceramic baking dishes that are about the same size – one got lashings of old cheddar cheese and the other got a generous sprinkling of Daiya cheddar shreds. We finished them off with sour cream (vegan and conventional – it’s our version of his and hers) and some of Hugh’s lemony guacamole.

Lemony guacamole

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This recipe was tackled way back in May of 2014, for our very first Cottage Cooking Club round of posting.

Kevin’s a bit miffed that I overlooked this recipe until almost the very last post for this cookbook – it would have become a staple in our kitchen much sooner, if I hadn’t.

It relies on lemon, cilantro, and fresh red chile to complement the avocado. I skipped adding oil, as it seemed unnecessary, and threw a bit of chopped red onion into the mix. It was perfect with our nachos and adds great flavour as a sandwich spread, too.

The vegiflette toastie

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This one was just for me – I couldn’t resist putting aside a few of the baby potatoes we’d had for dinner so that I could have this toastie for an indulgent Saturday lunch. The topping consists of sliced potatoes heated with a little wilted endive and some heavy cream and I would have enjoyed this if the sandwich had stopped there. The final step is to melt some cheese on top (old cheddar, in this case) and it made the dish absolutely perfect for a rainy day. It was more of a knife and fork affair with the split baguette I used, but that was fine. Not every sandwich needs to be portable.

Dressed Puy lentils

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I make Hugh’s lentils, with their mustardy dressing, at least once a week. We stir them into bowls of roasted potatoes, wilted greens, freshly roasted or steamed vegetables, cold salads, or grains hot or cold. These become one bowl lunches or side dishes at dinner.

There are plenty of other ways to dress lentils, but don’t you find you look back on a period of time and remember a dish or two that kept coming up over and over? It’s been that way with these lentils this winter. It’s not repetition so much as punctuation.

Roasted new potatoes with harissa

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We ate our lentils with these potatoes one night, but it took several tries. The first step in making these is to roast the potatoes with salt and pepper. I usually roast potatoes with herbs and garlic, or onion, or spices – it depends on what I’m serving. These come out of the oven with the more-ish quality of French fries. And we discovered, salt and pepper potatoes go so well with Hugh’s lentils, that you might forget to add harissa altogether. Twice.

With the harissa, they’re good, but honestly, not as good as the plain potatoes. I love harissa as a condiment for soups, stews, and other dishes with a Middle Eastern bent, but I think in this dish, it’s a little wasted.

Vegetable biryani

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I wish I could say we loved this one, but we only liked it. We probably won’t be repeating this version of biryani, but I was especially appreciative of the flavour the brown onions brought to the dish.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

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Finally, there’s a treat that came up in the rotation in November of 2014. I had some beautiful crème fraîche and cultured butter on hand, that I was reviewing for another post earlier this month. This recipe seemed like a perfect way to enjoy it.

I made these potatoes two ways – a vegan version for Kevin, with vegan sour cream, Earth Balance, and Daiya cheddar shreds, and a conventional version for me, with crème fraîche, cultured butter, and old cheddar.

We won’t be having these often, but not because we don’t like them. We loved them. They’re just an indulgence that should be an occasional treat. Although, you can put spinach in them – that makes them good for you, doesn’t it?

As I said, it was a delicious month. I’m looking forward to what April brings.

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Glass Jars and Cream

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I received a basket of Riviera Petit Pot products from Laiterie Chalifoux, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

I’ve been looking for yogurt in glass jars for years. My Instagram envy ran high every time I’d see photos from someone’s Parisian pied-à-terre, with little glass pots of yogurt gracing their breakfast tables, along with baguettes and café au lait.

Now, before you diagnose me as someone in need of a vacation (I am, it’s true), let me say it’s not just the romance of foreign packaging that’s at the root of my longing. It’s also the plastic containers that fill my recycling bin. Glass isn’t just more attractive than plastic, it’s more sustainable.

So, when I saw yogurt in glass containers at my local grocery store, East End Food Co-op, I was thrilled. Not only were they in cute, reusable glass jars, but they also had French-inspired flavours like rhubarb, fig, and nut. I took some home and was even more pleased to find out that this yogurt was only very lightly sweetened, allowing me to focus on the richness of the yogurt and the flavour of the compote at the bottom.

I was so impressed that I contacted the producer, Laiterie Chalifoux, to find out more about it. I learned that they were just launching Riviera Petit Pot in English Canada and they were kind enough to send me samples of the entire line.

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This includes three kinds of yogurt – set-style yogurts, organic yogurts, and goat milk yogurts; sour cream and crème fraîche; and cultured butters, including a goat milk butter.

Needless to say, I started experimenting in the kitchen right away.

Potatoes and Nachos

The crème fraîche was a perfect excuse to make twice-baked potatoes, paired with a sharp cheddar. The sour cream topped nachos with homemade refried beans, then perogies from one of my favourite local purveyors.

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The sample of set-style yogurt Riviera sent me was coconut-flavoured, which sounded like a great base for the Honey-Yogurt Mousse I decided to make. I topped it with crème fraîche whipped cream, for a little added decadence.

Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream

1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp crème fraîche
1 tsp brown sugar
a dash of vanilla

Put the whipping cream and crème fraîche into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form.

The other two yogurts Riviera sent me were an organic yogurt with rhubarb compote and a vanilla goat yogurt. I didn’t get too fancy with these, enjoying the rhubarb yogurt just as it was and lacing the vanilla yogurt with frozen blueberries, for a breakfast parfait. I had some leftover coconut yogurt, too, which I ate with some fresh mango.

As for the butters, I’ve been working away steadily at the salted cultured butter, spreading it on toast each morning. Cultured butter is great for baking, but since I had two pots, I decided to bake with one and enjoy the other slowly. The goat butter was the one I was most interested to try in a baked good, as I hadn’t worked with it before.

I belong to a baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, and one of their March selections seemed like a tasty way to test drive the goat butter.

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The orange cake I made with the goat butter was moist and delicious, made even more so with the last of the crème fraîche whipped cream. I was happy with how the flavour of the goat butter worked in this sweet cake and now I’m curious to see what it’s like in savoury baked goods.

I still had half a jar of crème fraîche left, so I decided to use it for a special breakfast. Eggs en Cocotte are easy to make, but they present as though they’re part of a weekend brunch buffet. It’s the spoonful of crème fraîche on top that makes them so rich. As you can see from the photo at the top of the post, these eggs can make even a weekday breakfast feel special.

Eggs en Cocotte

For each serving, you will need:

  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tsps caramelized onions
  • 2-3 leaves fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp crème fraîche
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.
Boil a kettle of water, then set aside.

Butter ramekin(s) and place them in a shallow pan.

Spoon onions into ramekin and sprinkle rosemary over them. Break an egg into the ramekin, then season with a little salt and pepper. Spoon crème fraîche gently on top of the egg. Repeat for each serving.

Pour water from the kettle into the pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Slide the pan carefully into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. If you like the yolk fully set, you might need to add a few more minutes.

After a week of indulgence, I can safely say I’m a fan of everything Riviera Petit Pot has to offer. The flavours are richly European and the jars are attractive and infinitely reuseable. I especially like the quantity in each of the jars of sour cream and crème fraîche – they’re the perfect size for setting out at table if you’re serving something like blini or perogies.

Riviera also produces plastic lids for the jars, which are useful when you’ve only used a portion of a jar, or if you want to transport salads, parfaits, or any other concoctions you create to fill your jars. For a limited time, Riviera is sending 4 lids free to Canadians (excluding Quebec). You can find details, here.

I’m grateful my discovery at the food co-op led to the opportunity to try out the whole line. They’re going to be regular items on my shopping list from now on.

Cook the Book Fridays – Dukkah-Roasted Cauliflower

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I love my stand mixer and my food processor, my slow cooker and my blender, but sometimes I think I get the most satisfaction from the little Braun coffee grinder I picked up at a garage sale back in my university days. Now, it’s only occasionally used to grind coffee – who needs coffee at home when you’re living at the corner of java and joe? But it has produced any number of freshly ground spices over the years, along with emergency icing sugar and top ups for scant cups of oat or chickpea flours. I paid almost nothing for it and it’s brought me a wealth of flavour.

It is rather…enthusiastic, though, so I thought I’d use our mini chopper to make the dukkah for this week’s Cook the Book Fridays dish. This spice mix is meant to have a coarse texture and my spice grinder is more of an instant powder maker. In the end, though, the grinder had to come to the rescue, as the peppercorns and coriander managed to elude the mini chopper’s blade completely. I had to dig them out, grind them, and whisk them back in.

That was the only glitch in a simple and delicious recipe. There are many versions of dukkah, but this one is particularly well-balanced. The recipe made much more than I needed for the roasted cauliflower, so I’m looking forward to trying it in dip form, on other sorts of roasted vegetables, or as a crust for tofu.

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The cauliflower itself couldn’t have been simpler – slices are roasted in olive oil, the dukkah is added, and the cauliflower continues roasting until it’s tender and caramelized. In the headnote to the recipe, David tells us that this dish has been known to elicit exclamations of pleasure and that certainly happened here – the moment I opened the oven to pull it out, just as he’d promised.

That’s the second cauliflower recipe to do so in our house in less than six months. The first was Meera Sodha’s roasted cauliflower. There are other cauliflower dishes I enjoy, but I could be perfectly happy with alternating between these two indefinitely.

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There’s a version of David Lebovitz’ dukkah on his website.

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 LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.

Cottage Cooking Club – February 2016

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What do you turn to when you’re trying to get through the last weeks of winter eating? Before the celebration of rhubarb and asparagus, radishes and new potatoes, how do you make the last of the cold weather staples more interesting?

I love dried mushrooms (especially porcini), citrus fruits, and the herbs that grow year-round in my garden. Along with pulses, winter greens, and high quality canned or frozen goods, they make these weeks of waiting for new growth bearable. Actually, with a little attention to detail, our meals are rich and delicious.

Potatoes and “Deconstructed Pesto”

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This potato dish is a good example. The basil and lemon were imported, but everything else was local. We roast vegetables often, usually with rosemary and thyme from the back yard. This variation was a treat, especially with shredded Daiya vegan mozzarella. It would have been equally good with a vegan Parmesan (DIY Vegan‘s Garlic Parmesan Shaker is a good place to start, if you’re interested). It’s nice to know that we can have cheesy goodness that satisfies both the vegan and non-vegan members of our household.

White Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Red Onions

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Though tomatoes are best in the summertime, I don’t always say no to the hothouse cherry and grape tomatoes that can be found alongside greenhouse-grown peppers at the fresh markets. It’s hard to turn down jewel-toned vegetables consistently in the name of seasonal eating, isn’t it? Especially when they’re a component of a treat like this. Creamy cannellini beans, tomatoes, and parsley in a lemony mustard dressing. A simple side or healthy winter lunch that’s bright on the tongue and cheerful on the plate.

Chickpea, Chard, and Porcini Soup

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This wasn’t a pick for this month, but one I missed when it came up in the rotation for August, 2015. I couldn’t resist catching up on it this month. As I said at the beginning of the post, I love using dried porcini mushrooms throughout the winter. They make their own stock when you rehydrate them and they lend a rich, meaty undertone to soups and stews. I also keep organic frozen spinach on hand, so when the greens at the market were underwhelming, I pulled some out for this soup. With extra chickpeas and plum tomatoes, it was a truly hearty soup. Next time, I’ll add some sautéed fresh mushrooms, too. Rainy February days call for stick-to-your-ribs fare, don’t you think? This one didn’t need any cheese, vegan or otherwise – it was perfect on its own. It’s also one that can be varied throughout all the seasons, which we’ll certainly be doing.

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The weather’s warming up here, though there’s still lots of rain. I can’t believe we’ve only got two more months’ worth of recipes before The Cottage Cooking Club moves on to two more River Cottage cookbooks!

At the end of the month, you’ll be able to find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.