FFWD – Storzapretis


It’s not often that I come across a dish that’s relatively unknown on the Internet – in this case, I mean the English-speaking internet. Until the flood of French Fridays posts today, I could only find a handful of references to this week’s dish in English – there are plenty of recipes for it on French sites. (As an aside, it pleases me that I can read French relatively well, even though no one should ever be subjected to me speaking it.)

Storzapretis, not to be confused with the Italian pasta called strozzapretis, are a sort of Corsican gnudi, as Betsy pointed out in her post today.

They are properly made with Brocciu cheese, but thick ricotta makes a good substitute. The ricotta is mixed with spinach, grated cheese, minced mint or marjoram, an egg, and a very small amount of flour. It’s then formed into quenelles, lightly tossed in a little more flour and set to rest in the fridge or freezer. When it’s time to finish them, they’re gently poached in simmering water, carefully dried, then put in the oven covered with tomato sauce and grated cheese.


It’s the last two steps that caused our crew so much trouble this week, resulting in one of the longest P & Q sections we’ve had in some time. Reading the comments saved me from disaster and also led me to experimenting with cooking them in two different ways.

Many Doristas found their storzapretis disintegrating as they poached, so Adriana tried skipping that step and cooking them in the oven only. She preferred that method and when I tried it, the night I made the storzapretis, I cooked a few that way and stowed the rest in the freezer.

Today, I tried the poaching method and though they kept their shape, I found their texture to be a little too soft for my liking, even after baking them for a bit longer than called for in the recipe. The ones I’d stuck straight into the oven were tender and fluffy, but firm. In future, I’ll skip the poach.

Though these dumplings were a bit time-consuming to make, I will be making them again. They’re worth the effort. And this week’s experience just reinforced my love of this cooking community – we truly help each other along each week.


Find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this week’s recipe here: Storzapretis.


Happy Birthday, Dorie! A French Fridays Celebration

Happy Birthday

Today’s French Fridays with Dorie assignment has been set aside for a celebration. Not only are we wishing Dorie Greenspan the happiest of birthdays, but we’re also baking from her soon-to-be-released cookbook, Baking Chez Moi. This celebration has been orchestrated by two of our fabulous French Fridays collaborators, Liz and Susan, who gave us four recipes from the new book to choose from.

I chose two, but the good news is that I’ll be baking through the entire book with Tuesdays with Dorie, starting in November – and you can, too. All the details are in this post on the TwD site.

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style


These little cookies manage to be elegant and homey all at once. The cookies themselves are flavoured with vanilla and have a cake-like quality, while the icing has a few drops of lemon juice and sets in that shiny, smooth, pastry shop way. They can be dressed up with tinted icing or some sanding sugar, but really I think they’re perfect just as they are.

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte

Peach Tourte

One of the things I love about French baking (well, besides all the butter) is that a good number of the desserts are far less complicated than the results would suggest. This tourte, with its free-standing crust and its sparkling surface, looks like it requires effort and expertise to carry off. The truth is that once you’ve mastered pâte sablée, the rest is easy. And if you have Dorie’s instructions for pâte sablée (or sweet tart dough), that part’s easy, too.

I used some of the last of this year’s peaches to make this tart, but I think it would work equally well with any juicy tree fruit. In fact, I think I might try it again with mango this winter. I think it made an admirable stand in for a birthday cake and might be even more welcome than cake at the height of peach season.


It’s been an amazing four years cooking and baking with French Fridays and I’m looking forward to the last six months or so of working through Around My French Table. I’m also starting to get excited about getting my hands on Baking Chez Moi and working through it with the Tuesdays with Dorie brigade.

So, again, happy birthday to you, Dorie. I’ve learned so much more about cooking and baking in these last few years, thanks to your work. I deeply admire your love and enthusiasm for food and the community it creates – you write about it beautifully.

Below you’ll find the full line up of posts for this French Fridays celebration. (Click on the name of the dish to find the recipe, so you can join in on the fun, too.)

Mini Cannelés

Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte

Dorie Greenspan’s Double-Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes

A shortcake

I was provided with a gift certificate by Driscoll’s to purchase ingredients for this recipe and I received a copy of Baking Chez Moi for participating in the Google+ chat. However, all opinions are my own.

For me, the beginning of summer is marked by the beginning of strawberry season. And the best way to celebrate the start of summer is strawberry shortcake. No wonder June 14th has been declared National Strawberry Shortcake Day. (It might be an American holiday, but I’m choosing to apply it to Canadians, too.)

One of the things I love best about strawberry shortcake is that it can be dressed up or down for any occasion. It’s as at home at a family picnic as it is a formal tea. It’s also a dessert that comes in many incarnations, causing arguments amongst those who champion the sponge cake variety and those who staunchly support the sweet biscuit version. Although I’ll gladly accept a plate of sponge cake smothered in whipped cream and berries, it’s the biscuit version that I think of as the real McCoy.

So, I was excited to be invited to join a Google + Hangout on Air a few weeks ago, to join some fellow bloggers to talk about just that sort of strawberry shortcake with baker extraordinaire Dorie Greenspan. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of her recipes and have been working through her last cookbook, Around My French Table, with a great group of bloggers for French Fridays with Dorie. I knew the recipe would be stellar, but I was also looking forward to the opportunity to ask Dorie for tips and tricks for making this shortcake as good as could be.

Dorie told us that she invented this recipe after learning that strawberries are closely related to roses. She also enjoys adding an element of surprise to her desserts, so the subtle flavour of rose and the two textures of the strawberries in this recipe add interest, elegance, and a little playfulness to these shortcakes. I also loved the hint of lemon in the biscuits.

My question for her was whether or not the tops of the biscuits, and the less-than-perfect ones, could be used for a trifle-like dessert. She thought that would work well, layered in a jar, with each layer of biscuit soaked in the juices from the compote. I did a little riff on this idea when I made the shortcakes, layering biscuits, berries, compote, and whipped cream into champagne glasses for a pre-dinner parfait. I even added a layer of rhubarb curd to the middle. It was the best cook’s treat ever.


Here is some more of the advice she shared with us:

  • Rubbing the lemon zest into the sugar releases its oils and helps to distribute the zest’s flavour and aroma throughout the dough.
  • Buttermilk acts with baking soda to make lighter biscuits.
  • Never be forceful with biscuit dough until you begin cutting it. Gently using your hands to mix the ingredients can keep you from overworking the dough, but forceful cutting of the biscuits maintains the layers of butter in the dough that help them rise – use a straight down motion, then twist.
  • Other flavours that complement strawberries are vanilla, black pepper, citrus, or crushed pink peppercorns. Any of these could be used in place of the rose extract.
  • Add a bit of sour cream to whipped cream for an extra layer of flavour and some added stability for piping.


Driscoll’s, the sponsor for our Google + Hangout, kindly provided us with gift certificates to purchase the ingredients for this recipe. Their berries were large, ripe, and incredibly sweet, which sets them apart from most supermarket berries. I would happily buy them again.


I was quite pleased with how this recipe turned out for me, with Dorie’s tips in hand. My shortcakes rose beautifully. I followed the recipe exactly, though my shortcakes were without the candied roses. My roses are only now starting to bloom, so I will be trying my hand at the candied roses soon. Because, of course, I will be making this recipe again. Dorie’s shortcakes were a huge hit with my family.

Plateful of shortcakes

You can find the recipe on the Driscoll’s website. They’ve also been kind enough to allow me to share it here.

Dorie Greenspan’s Double-Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes

Shared with permission from Driscoll’s Berries and Dorie Greenspan


Rose petal decoration
3 unsprayed roses
1-2 very fresh organic egg whites
granulated sugar
(or store-bought candied rose petals)
Strawberry compote
3/4 pound (about 3 cups) Driscoll’s Strawberries, hulled
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure rose extract

Lemon-buttermilk biscuits
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into
small cubes
3/4 cup cold buttermilk

Whipped Cream
1 cup very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon pure rose extract
1 tablespoon cold sour cream, optional
red or pink food coloring

1/2 – 3/4 pound (about 2 to 3 cups) Driscoll’s Strawberries,


Rose Petal Decoration
Several hours ahead or the day before, separate the rose petals, rinse them quickly in cold water and pat them dry. Put one egg white in a small bowl and whisk until it’s foamy. (You may or may not need the second white.) Put the sugar in another small bowl and place a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on the counter. One at a time, dip a petal into the white and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Drag the petal through the sugar to coat both sides very lightly. Dry the petals on the paper or mat in a cool, non-humid place for at least 6 hours or for as long as overnight.

Strawberry Compote
Coarsely chop the berries and toss them into a small saucepan with the sugar. Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the juices are slightly thickened and syrupy. Scrape the berries and syrup into a bowl, stir in the rose extract and cool to room temperature. (You can make the compote up to 3 days ahead and keep it covered in the refrigerator.)

Lemon-Buttermilk Biscuits
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and, working with your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the rest of the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk to combine. Drop in the pieces of cold butter and, again using your fingertips, crush, rub and blend the butter in. You’ll have flakes of butter and small pieces and this is just right. Pour the cold buttermilk over the mixture, switch to a fork and toss and stir everything together until the milk is absorbed – your dough might look like curds, but that’s fine. Don’t stir too much, too vigorously or for too long and if there are a few dry spots in the bottom of the bowl, ignore them. Reach into the bowl and knead the dough gently, folding it over on itself and turning it over 6 to 8 times.

Dust a work surface lightly with flour, turn out the dough and, still using your hands, pat the dough out until it is 1/2 inch thick. (The thickness is what’s important here.) Using a high-sided 2 inch cutter, cut out biscuits and place them on the baking sheet. Pat the scraps together until they’re 1/2 inch thick and cut out as many more biscuits as you can. (The leftover dough can be cut into biscuits, but they won’t rise as high or as evenly as the others – you can keep them as your baker’s treat). Sprinkle tops with sugar.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the biscuits have risen gloriously and their tops and bottoms are golden brown. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and allow the biscuits to cool until they reach room temperature. (The biscuits can be made up to 6 hours ahead; keep them uncovered at room temperature.)

Whipped Cream
Working with an electric mixer, beat the cream just until it mounds softly. Still beating, add the sugar, followed by the vanilla and rose extracts. When the cream is fully whipped and holds firm peaks, quickly beat in the sour cream, if you’re using it. To tint the cream, beat in just one drop of coloring; continue adding coloring a tiny drop at a time until you get the shade of pink you want. (The whipped cream can be made up to 3 hours ahead and kept tightly covered in the refrigerator; whisk a couple of times before using.)

Just before you’re ready to put the shortcakes together, stand the berries up and, using a thin-bladed knife, cut each berry into 4 or 5 thin slices.

If you’d like to pipe the whipped cream, either spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with an open star or plain tip, or spoon the cream into a zipper-lock plastic bag and snip off a corner. Alternatively, you can simply spoon on the cream.

Slice off the top of the biscuit to create an even surface for piping the cream. Save the tops to nibble on later. Put a teaspoonful of strawberry compote and syrup in the center of each biscuit. Pipe (or spoon) a circle of whipped cream around the compote, leaving a bit of compote uncovered. Finish each shortcake by pressing two or three slices of strawberry together, fanning them out a little and placing them, broad side down, in the center of each cake. Add a rose petal for the finishing touch. (If you have any extra compote and/or cream, cover and keep in the refrigerator to enjoy at another time.)

Arrange the shortcakes on a platter. Scatter the remaining rose petals around the platter and serve immediately.

My Ever Changing Moods


I’m going through one of my periodic blogger identity crises. I keep reading that the most important thing to do as a blogger is to narrow focus – if you want anyone to read your blog, that is.

It’s also the one thing I can’t really bring myself to do. I love cooking along with the French Fridays crew and I’m interested in all sorts of questions that fall under the rubric of food – food systems, vegetable gardening, restaurants, cookbook reviews, along with food security and justice. But I’m at least as interested in writing about things that I’ve classed under the broad category of community. How people connect is endlessly fascinating to someone who never really left their childhood shyness behind. Drilling down into what’s offered locally is one of my favourite ways of demonstrating what my hometown is about. It’s also my way of trying to connect with my readers’ sense of what’s similar and different about the places they live. And the ways in which ideas around community are changing, for better or worse, seem important to explore, too. As a Gen Xer with roots in social justice movements, the shifts we’re seeing in income equality, affordability, and inclusiveness seem inextricably wound up in what community is coming to mean in the 21st Century.

All of which is to say that I don’t think I’ll be narrowing my focus any time soon. I suspect that my blog will continue to be as imperfect as my garden can be, with the occasional beautiful bloom to distract from the ever-encroaching weeds.

Thanks for sticking it out with me.

To A New Year


Here’s to an end to the old year’s sorrow, but remembrance of the things that made it bright. Here’s to less static and more signal; fewer fights and more friendship; less holding back and more living.

I hope that 2014 brings you joy where you can find it, with love and support when you can’t.

FFWD – Boeuf à la Mode


Today’s French Fridays recipe is actually Muenster Cheese Soufflés, but I didn’t join in, because soufflé is something I reserve for the gluten-eaters in my life and I haven’t had an opportunity to cook for any of them in some time. I have also been neglecting my blog lately, too. I can’t believe it’s been a month! It was a busy one, but I’m back.

Today, I’m sharing something I made when the rest of the group did, but didn’t have an opportunity to post. Boeuf à la Mode is pot roast really, braised in a beautiful burgundy wine that the Doristas who attended IFBC sent to me in an amazingly generous care package last month.


They also sent Cher and her husband Joe to deliver it. I was sad to miss the conference, but meeting Cher more than made up for it. She and Joe are really lovely people and I’m happy I got a chance to meet them. Cher let me know that Susan and Betsy ran around to all the sample tables picking up treats for me. Thank you so much! Kevin was thrilled with all the gluten-free treats, especially. I’m just glad that Cher and Joe didn’t get a customs bill for all the IFBC gear they brought over the border! Thanks to all of you for the treats. I especially loved the note from Susan and John and have been showing off the Trevor-designed button proudly.

As for the pot roast, I cooked it one day and served it the next. With its long marinade at the beginning, it became a weekend project, really. The results were worth it. Very rich, especially with the addition of a couple of anchovies. I halved the recipe (which left me with some wine for drinking), and it worked really well. The photo above doesn’t do it justice. The edges were actually perfectly browned, though they seem black in the photo. I’ll be making this one again.

I also want to wish Dorie a happy belated Birthday. Several of the gang posted special birthday greetings for her yesterday. I’ll be making the rosemary and olive oil version of her French Yogurt Cake from Baking From My Home to Yours this weekend and will have a slice in her honour.

See you all next week. In the meantime, I’m going to be catching up on everyone’s blog posts.

You can find many other blogged descriptions of this FFWD recipe here: Boeuf à la Mode

Northern Voice 2013


Community-building in the blogging world is largely virtual, naturally. We build connections across the lines of data moving about the web, and leave the face-to-face for the dog park. At least that’s the clichéd version. In truth, the intersections of blogging and social media have opened up a myriad of methods for meeting, from tweetups like EastVanLove to conferences like Northern Voice.

Earlier this month, #nv13 took over the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and Museum of Vancouver for two days of presentations and in person connections. I attended with my friend Tricia and was pleased to find that Vivienne McMaster was there to lead a photo walk, but that was the extent of my real world connections. I knew from past experience, though, that the crowd at Northern Voice would be largely unpretentious, accepting, and friendly.

What separates Northern Voice from a lot of blogging and social media conferences is its grassroots nature. It’s an environment where the organizers and presenters are volunteering their time and there’s a horizontal structure that doesn’t divide presenters from attendees – everyone’s there to learn and connect.

The opening speakers, Mark Blevis and Bob Goyetche, set the stage by talking about how their conference, Podcasters Across Borders evolved from its initial focus on knowledge to become a gathering that engendered creativity. What followed at Northern Voice was a hybrid of the two, with presentations on improving comments, working with brands, and getting your links clicked, alongside others that focused on storytelling, ulterior design, and manufactured authenticity.

I have to say, I felt like a little bit of an outlier with my notebook, pen, and iPhone 3G (Yes, I’m hanging onto it until it completely dies! Electronic pollution – it’s a thing. Carry on.). But iPad with keyboard envy aside (I’m looking at you, Tricia), I managed to take a lot of notes, and tweet a little bit, too. I got a lot of practical information from some great knowledge-oriented presenters, but it was really the creativity-driven presentations that I’ve been chewing on since.


Here are some of the weekend’s highlights for me:

Brian Thompson‘s observations that you can’t force inspiration, but you can make an appointment with creativity and that it’s up to us to earn the privilege of our audience’s attention.

John Biehler‘s path from quietly blogging about his hobbies, to having incredible adventures, all because he was approachable and open to experiences.

Dave Olson’s untold stories and his observation that your audience breathes life into your writing, even if it’s three people.

Chatting with photographers in the Cosmic Courtyard during Friday night’s party, surrounded by space age memorabilia.

Anthony Marco’s take on authenticity, which you can listen to here.


I’ll leave you with a few links to others’ post-conference…posts:

Brad Ovenell-Carter’s sketch notes from the conference.

Photos from Tricia McDonald Ward.

Vivienne McMaster’s post.

Russel Lolacher‘s post-conference thoughts on meaningful networking.

Stephen Rees’ Storify of the conference.

There’s many more posts, Flickr sets, and commentaries, of course. You can find a lot of them by searching with the #nv13 hashtag on Twitter.

As for me, I’m contemplating going to a bigger conference this fall to meet up with my French Fridays compatriots, but I’ll definitely be back to Northern Voice again, perhaps for next year’s 10th anniversary edition. Its focus suits me perfectly.


FFWD – Chicken, Apples, and Cream à la Normande

Chickens, Apples, and Cream à la Normande

I write about community and cooking here, sometimes trying to combine the two, whether it’s cookie swaps or sharing food with family and friends. There’s another aspect of community that plays into the food writing I do here and that’s the online community built by French Fridays participants. A number of us are participating in a holiday card exchange organized by Alice of A Mama, Baby and Shar-Pei in the Kitchen. It’s been just over two years and 100 recipes since French Fridays began and this card exchange seems like the perfect way to express appreciation to at least some of the people that make our community so worthwhile. It’s been a privilege to get to know these folks a little and to communicate through our blogs and the comments we exchange. Thanks, Alice for organizing the card exchange – I’ve received a few already and they’re lovely.

It’s also good for me to cook something new every week (well, mostly every week) and to compare my results and variations with the rest of the group. I think I’ve become a better and more inventive cook over the course of this project. Speaking of inventive, I played a little bit with this week’s recipe. I added ground herbs to the (gluten-free) dredging mixture, I substituted two-percent milk for the cream, chicken thighs for the breasts and I skipped the alcohol altogether. (I didn’t read the recipe until this afternoon, I’m out of my all-purpose Cognac, and I wasn’t about to brave the lines at the liquor store on a December Friday evening.) Oh, and I added garlic, because I couldn’t help it.

Gluten-free flour with seasonings, for dredging.

It turned out really well, though I can see that adding Calvados, brandy, or Cognac would make it even more flavourful. We had some tonight on its own and we’ll finish it tomorrow, perhaps with spinach or broccoli as Dorie suggests.

Tonight, I’d also like to let our American Doristas know that I’m thinking of them.

You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Chicken, Apples, and Cream à la Normande

FFWD – Hummus

Hummus, with home-made bagels in the background.

We’re beginning our third year of French Fridays with something simple, which in typical Dorie fashion, can be experimented with until you find your favourite version(s). Hummus is something most of us can find at the supermarket, but it’s easy enough to make at home. Chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic – those are the basics. I even made the tahini myself this time. The ratio is about 1 cup of toasted sesame seeds to 1/4 cup olive oil, more or less, depending on how thick you want it. Dump it all in the food processor and in a few seconds, it’s done. In this case, I just left the amount of tahini needed for the hummus in the processor and added the rest of the ingredients.

Dorie adds a bit of cumin to her hummus and I like adding a bit of chile flakes, cayenne, or hot sauce, too. A sprinkle of smoked paprika on top is both a predictable garnish and also delicious. I stuck close to the recipe this time, but you can add any number of flavours to hummus. Herbs or pesto are lovely, but even just bumping up the lemon or garlic can make a great variation. But, you probably know that already. I’ll just add that in the photo, you get a little preview of the next Baking with Julia assignment. Bagels and hummus make a great combination.

We started our first year of French Fridays with something quintessentially French, Gougères. Our second year began with a recipe that gently led (most of) us through new, even intimidating techniques in the kitchen – Olive-Olive Cornish Hens. Our third year’s begun with a bit of a softball, but one that reminds us how easy it is to replicate store-bought staples cheaply, easily, and deliciously at home. They’ve all been very much worth our time.

You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Hummus

FFWD – Peach Melba, or Our 100th Recipe

Peach Melba, in a brandy snifter.

We’re headed toward the second anniversary of French Fridays with Dorie, but today we’re celebrating another milestone – our 100th recipe together. I think that only Mardi of eat. live. travel. write. has managed to do all 100 so far, but a number of us have come close – my count is 91, currently.

Some of us joined at the beginning and others have joined in along the way. Most are food bloggers, but some of us just like the good food and community that these French Fridays have brought us. It’s the community I appreciate most – the introduction to interesting bloggers across the world who share their stories along with descriptions of their take on our weekly assignments.

That’s not to say that working our way through an entire cookbook, week by week, doesn’t have other advantages. I’ve stretched my culinary wings more than a few times so far and I’ve eaten very well, as have my trusty taste testers – my partner, family, friends, and even our housing co-op neighbours have all tasted a little bit of Dorie’s magic.

Another shot of the Peach Melba.

This week’s recipe is fittingly celebratory – Peach Melba is visually stunning, delicious, and surprisingly easy to put together. I was going to make ice cream, but didn’t manage to borrow an ice cream maker, so the ice cream is store-bought. I poached the peaches, though, whipped the cream by hand (that sort of makes up for store-bought ice cream, doesn’t it?), and pureed the raspberries. The rest was a matter of assembly. Who knew that giant brandy snifters could actually be useful?

So, consider this Peach Melba (in its giant glass) a toast to all Doristas, past and present. (Thanks, Trevor, for coining that term!) The site is a treasury, not just of great menu suggestions, but of great blogs, too – it’s worth looking through the early entries, as well as the latest ones, as there are some pretty cool bloggers who haven’t kept up with the group, for one reason or another. I’ve appreciated reading through all of them and I’ve especially enjoyed getting to know my fellow Doristas, a little, through their writing.

Thanks to Laurie for creating this group, Dorie Greenspan for her wonderful recipes, and also to Betsy and Mary for taking on admin duties on the site and on Facebook. We (literally) couldn’t do it without you.

My copy of Around My French Table, showing a little wear and tear.

I’m looking forward to the next 200+ recipes the group will tackle. I’m also looking forward to seeing the evolution of our little group over that time. I just hope my copy of Around My French Table holds up that long!

You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Peach Melba