Headed for a Heatwave


It’s going to get hot here, in the next few days. At the same time, there’s a bounty of summer produce to experiment with. Here are a few early summer heatwave suggestions:

It’s still strawberry season, so make the most of them while you can.


Dorie Greenspan’s Double-Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes


Mozzarella, Tomato and Strawberry Salad

Ice Cream

Ginger-Honey and Strawberry Chèvre Ice Cream

And now, cherries have started appearing in the market.


Roasted Cherries


Whole-Cherry Clafoutis

Gateau Basque

Gâteau Basque

If hot-weather cooking doesn’t appeal, there’s lots to do around town.

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival runs until July 1st this year. There are concerts at venues all over town, but don’t overlook the free shows this weekend at David Lam Park. It’s a beautiful place to relax, picnic, and listen to some stellar music.

If you’d prefer to start your weekend indoors, Rain City Chronicles‘ latest show is at the Museum of Vancouver this Friday. It’s called GUTs and promises “stories of relying on your instincts, acts of bravery, and the organs inside you.”

There are two days left to catch the Festival d’ete francophone de Vancouver.

If you have kids, or if you still have the constitution of one, head over to Playland and test your stomach’s mettle with fair food and amusement park rides.

I prefer my thrills pedal-powered, so Velopalooza is right up my alley. I’m only sorry I missed today’s Tour de Book Exchanges.

Or you could hang out in your backyard (or patio, for you microunit dwellers) and work on developing Summer 2015’s signature drink.

I’ll be here hoping for a nice summer rain.


Spring Book Reviews – Vanilla Table


I received an electronic copy of Vanilla Table, for review from Natasha MacAller’s publicist. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own. 

The single subject cookbook is a trend that’s becoming as important as cookbooks focused on a single cuisine. Whether the focus is a dish or an ingredient, a meal or a piece of equipment, home cooks are seeking out cookbooks that will allow them to dig deeper than the generalist cookbooks they started with.

Natasha MacAller’s Vanilla Table is a perfect example of why this trend is taking off. Vanilla is an ingredient most cooks take for granted, adding it to their sweets and baked goods to enhance the flavours that are the real stars of their dishes. As MacAller says in her introduction to the cookbook: “Vanilla is often used to describe something that is just ordinary, nothing special, no extras — however, vanilla is anything but plain.”

MacAller sets out to make vanilla not just the focus of many of the dishes in the book, but also to provide the tools for home cooks to use vanilla, in all its forms, more creatively and daringly. There’s a short “Vanilla 101” at the beginning of the book that guides the reader through the four varieties of vanilla and their characteristics, then discusses the forms of vanilla that are sold, from pods to powder. At the end of the book, she devotes a whole chapter to staple concoctions that are used in recipes throughout the book, but could serve as a jumping off point for your own ideas. The Vanilla Candied Bacon Bits alone could keep me busy finding savoury and sweet uses for them.

The chapters of the book read like the sections of a restaurant menu and the recipes lean toward haute cuisine. Though there are a few homey recipes, this book is perfect for planning dinner party menus. The recipes in the book are MacAller’s own, along with a selection of recipes from well-known chefs and bakers around the world, including Rose Levy Beranbaum, David Lebovitz, Yotam Ottolenghi, and Nancy Silverton.

MacAller herself became a chef after a career as a professional dancer, learning that she loved working with food when she began catering in her dance companies’ off seasons. She became known as The Dancing Chef and her recipes reflect a cosmopolitan and global perspective on food.

What I especially like about this cookbook is the way that its recipes make use of flavour combinations and layering. It’s something that’s often missing from cookbooks and is especially suitable for bringing a sense of fine dining to the home dining room.

The book also introduces a cornucopia of ingredients and a wealth of techniques, making the most of vanilla while tempting the reader to stretch their palates and practices. Huckleberry gastrique, lychee lime relish, fennel vanilla sausage, homemade labneh – the parts and flourishes of these recipes are as interesting as the whole.

Though the recipes and instructions might be challenging for more inexperienced cooks, this book has more than enough to teach cooks who are comfortable in the kitchen and want to extend their skills. I’d recommend it especially to cooks who like to entertain on an elegant scale.

I’m looking forward to working through the sweets and baked goods chapters, but I thought a good test of the book would be to choose recipes from the savoury section. There are classic vanilla pairings like lobster or dishes set off by a fruity sauce, but there are also some surprising combinations.

I was intrigued by the idea of garlic and vanilla, so I’m sharing MacAller’s recipe for a starter that combines the mellow savoury flavour of caramelized garlic with cheeses and a vanilla-infused custard. It’s a sneaky dish, with a strong vanilla aroma that initially reads as dessert. When you taste it, the garlic, ricotta and Parmesan are at the forefront of its flavour, but then the nutmeg and vanilla come through. It’s complex and delicious, a good starter for an adventurous meal or a classically French one. I served it plain, but I suspect it would be even more interesting with a garnish of green pea pesto (from her recipe for Heirloom Tomato Bisque, which pairs tomato and vanilla to good effect).

Garlic and ricotta custard

Caramelized Garlic & Ricotta Custard Cups

Serves 6

  • 1 garlic head (recipe needs 6 caramelized cloves)
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) oil
  • 1 tsp butter, to grease cups
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) apple sauce (or ¼ apple, peeled and grated)
  • ½ cup (120 mL) whipping cream
  • 1 cup (240 mL) milk
  • ½ tsp superfine sugar
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup (90 g) ricotta
  • ¼ cup (20 g) Parmesan, finely grated
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg

Caramelized Garlic

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.

Cut top off garlic head to expose cloves. Peel away just the outer layer of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves. Wrap loosely in foil and drizzle over the oil. Pinch the foil closed at the top, place in a baking pan and cook in oven 30–35 minutes until squishy, caramelized and golden brown.

Custard Cups

Butter 6 small (4 fl oz/120 ml) custard cups. Set inside a baking dish large enough to hold the cups.

Cut the vanilla pod in half but don’t split and scrape it, to keep the custard ivory colored. Squeeze 6 caramelized garlic cloves into a saucepan and add apple sauce, vanilla pod, cream, milk, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring just to a simmer, turn off heat and cool about 20 minutes.

Turn the oven to 325 F/160 C.

In a large jug, whisk the eggs well, then add ricotta. Place a sieve over the jug and strain the milk mixture into the eggs, pressing the garlic through with the back of a spoon. Discard the vanilla pod or rinse, dry and save for another use. Add Parmesan, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and whisk together.

Pour custard into cups. Lift pan into the oven, then fill with very hot water to come halfway up the outside of the cups. Bake for 20 minutes until custard has browned and set but is still jiggly in the center.

Serve warm as is or top with a spoonful of green pea pesto.

Vanilla Table shows just how complex and varied its titular ingredient can be, while proving that limiting cookbooks to a single subject doesn’t limit the scope and breadth of its recipes.

Come back Thursday, May 21st for a discussion of two books I was excited to celebrate.

Made With Love


Not long after his 60th birthday, my Dad was getting ready for work and told my mother he had to sit down for a minute before leaving. Luckily, my Mom recognized the signs of a heart attack and got him to the hospital so quickly that they were able to stabilize him before it was too late. He’d always congratulated himself on marrying a nurse, who could help him with whatever ailed him, and now she’d saved his life.

When he got home, there were exercise regimens and eating restrictions to follow. And my father counted himself lucky once again, because my mother is not only a fabulous cook, but she is also one of the most determined people on earth when she puts her mind to it. He was going to eat a healthy diet if it – well, even if it pained him.

She came up with an arsenal of heart-healthy recipes so delicious that the rest of the family started hoping some of the leftovers would show up at our doors. My Dad recovered, then thrived.

Ten years later, my partner Kevin started on his own path to better health and decided that veganism was going to be a big part of it. My mother started sending over freezer containers full of the chili she’d developed for my Dad. It’s vegan and gluten-free, but more importantly, it’s one of Kevin’s favourite meals.

It took a while for her to share the recipe with me, not because she’s secretive, but because she’s always busy – volunteering, meeting with friends old and new, or spending time with her grandchildren.

When I finally had the recipe, I whipped up a batch of the chili and immediately realized that my chili powder had much, much more cayenne pepper in it than the brand my mother uses. Her chili has a warming burn, while mine was five-alarm fiery. Taste, don’t trust is a good motto for adding chili powder. Lesson learned. I’ve amended that line of the recipe accordingly – it’s a range now, not the 6 tablespoons that she uses. (I think her chili powder must be mostly cumin.)

Tonight, I brought a whole batch to a meeting of our housing co-op. I came home with only one small bowl’s worth. Not quite enough for a meal, but enough to remind me to make it again soon.

And now you can share it with those you love, too, whether it’s your family or a community you care about.

Jeannine’s Spicy Vegetable Chili

By Jeannine McCarthy

Serves a crowd

1 tbsp olive oil
4 large garlic cloves – sliced
1 large onion – sliced and quartered
2 carrots – sliced into medium coins
2 small stalks of celery – sliced
1 cup water

1 can diced tomatoes 28 oz – low salt
1 can tomato sauce 680 ml – low salt

1 small green pepper – sliced into chunks
1 small red pepper – sliced into chunks
1 small orange or yellow pepper – sliced into chunks

1 can organic tomato paste 5.5 oz
2 cans red kidney beans 28 oz each – low salt
1 can black beans 19oz – no salt
1 can romano beans 19oz – no salt

1-4 tbsp chili powder*
1 tbsp cumin
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

  • Coat bottom of a large soup pot with olive oil. On low heat, add garlic and onions; cook until starting to look translucent. Add carrots, celery, and water. Cook until carrots are slightly tender.
  • Add tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add chili powder, cumin, vinegar, pepper and salt, then stir. Continue cooking on medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Add tomato paste, kidney beans, black beans, and Romano beans. Cook for 5 minutes, then add green, red, and yellow peppers.
  • Cook on medium heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

This is a large recipe. After the first meal, ladle left-overs into freezer containers (enough for one meal) and freeze.

*Start on the low range when you add the chili powder and then add a little at a time until you reach the level of heat you like. There can be a lot of variation in strength amongst chili powders. 1 1/2 tablespoons seems about right for us, with the brand we use.

Whipped Shortbread and Sucre à la Crème for French Fridays


For the third year in a row, the French Fridays with Dorie crew has exchanged Christmas cards. In the first two years, a few of us have included recipes along with the cards and this year, we’ve made it into a full-fledged virtual recipe exchange. I’ve been receiving cards and recipes from Doristas from around North America and around the world and it’s been nice to come home to a mailbox stuffed full of good wishes over the last week or two. Thanks to Alice, Christy, and Candy for making this such a special event.

We were asked to share one (or more) of the recipes we were sent, or to share the one we included with our card. Because I sent my cards out a bit late, I chose the latter option.

Most of my mother’s family recipes, handed down to her by her mother in a black, coil-bound notebook, have been in storage since my parents moved. So, for the last two years, we’ve been baking other people’s family recipes at Christmastime. Some of the best have come from my mother’s friend Gina, an incredibly creative person. She gardens prolifically, propagating dahlias and fig trees (both of which are now in my yard, thanks to her), and enough produce to feed her extended family and many of the members of her branch of the Catholic Women’s League, too. She bakes, cooks, volunteers, and does any number of other things well. My mother finally got Gina’s shortbread recipe this year, so I’m passing it on to you.

Whipped Shortbread

Bea Hartel/Gina Alary

1 lb butter
½ cup cornstarch
1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
3 cups flour

Beat all ingredients together until consistency of whipped cream.
Drop on greased cookie sheet. (with teaspoon) Press down gently, make edges round if too jagged. Red or green cherries on top.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
Makes 5 – 6 dozen.

Now, when my mother got the recipe, it was much simpler than this. These ladies come from a generation in which they expect you’ll already know how to go about making cookies. My Mom added some instructions, which you can see above.

I want to elucidate just a little bit more. I whip the butter in my stand mixer first, until it’s light and fluffy. Then, I sift the rest of the ingredients into the bowl of the mixer and run the mixer on low for a bit, just so the dry ingredients don’t go flying everywhere, before bringing it up to medium-high until the dough reaches the consistency of whipped cream. If you’re using the cherries, it’s best to halve or quarter them first. If you prefer not to use glacé cherries, decorate them with something with a little more heft than sprinkles or sanding sugar and keep it simple.

There is also an alternative to the drop method of forming the cookie. You can dust your hands with cornstarch, quickly and gently roll teaspoonfuls of the dough into balls, and press them down with a floured fork (just as you would an old fashioned peanut butter cookie). Then, instead of glacé cherries, you can decorate them with dragées, sprinkles, sanding sugar, edible glitter, or sugar stars. They won’t be quite as melt-in-the-mouth, but they’re still delicious.

And, since I wasn’t able to make any of the Dorista recipes I received for this post, I’m going to update a family recipe that I shared in 2011. Sucre à la crème is a French Canadian favourite that my mother’s family has been making for generations. There are as many versions as family members, it seems, and I’ve finally come up with my own favourite formulation. My mother’s family is Franco-Manitoban, so they use brown sugar in place of the maple sugar that’s more common in Québécois versions. Feel free to experiment with maple sugar if it’s easy to come by for you. You can see the versions I shared in my original post here.

Now, this isn’t the sort of fudge we usually think of in North America, in which you avoid the formation of sugar crystals so that it’s silky smooth. This fudge is more like Scottish tablet, in which the sugar crystals are part of the pleasure. So, you don’t have to worry about sugar crystals forming on the pan and stirring is encouraged.

sucre a la creme

Teresa’s Sucre à la Crème

3 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 tsps vanilla

Butter an 11 X 7-inch pan, metal or heat-proof glass work equally well.

Combine the sugars and whipping cream, whisk together until well-blended and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the mixture starts to thicken, sugars the spoon (a metal one is best), and forms a ball when dropped into a dish of cold water. The lower end of the soft ball stage (234-236°F) is just right. Remove the pan from the heat and stir vigourously, adding the vanilla when the candy is just beginning to stiffen. When the scrapings are becoming solid, it’s time to pour the candy into the prepared pan. Chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight, then cut into small squares. It keeps for a week in the fridge or several months in the freezer. Bring to room temperature before serving.

I made some sucre à la crème yesterday, after sharing a Boxing Day meal with my parents. I left most of it there for my Mom to share out with the family and took a small box home to share with a Québécoise friend who hasn’t had the genuine article in some time. There was also a bit for Kevin and me, but that seems to have disappeared. The shortbread is long gone, too, shared at all my parents’ holiday gatherings and even at a cookie swap.

If you try either of these recipes, I’d love to see your results – find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and share a photo.

I’d like to wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a wonderful 2015. I also want to thank my fellow Doristas for making my weekends brighter with our weekly virtual get-togethers. I’m looking forward to the final few months of Around My French Table with all of you.

You can find the rest of the Dorista recipe exchange fun here: Holiday Card/Recipe Exchange or Makeup.

Holiday Book Reviews – 300 Best Homemade Candy Recipes


I don’t know about you, but this is the week when my Christmas shopping always begins in earnest. So, for the second year in a row, I’m bringing you three book reviews to help you cross a few names off your list.

I received a review copy of 300 Best Homemade Candy Recipes from Robert Rose Inc. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

My mother’s aunts were tiny women with very strong arms. That’s because they were raised in an era without stand mixers or food processors to help them in the kitchen. One of the things they used their strength to make, in quantities great enough for the whole extended family, was the French Canadian specialty sucre à la crème. This simple fudge was something we looked forward to at Christmastime and my great-aunt Leona taught me how to make it when I was a teenager. Until very recently, sucre à la crème and truffles were the only candy recipes in my repertoire.

Enter Jane Sharrock’s 300 Best Homemade Candy Recipes. I’ve been curious about candy making for some time now, so when I got the opportunity to review this book, I jumped at it. Sharrock’s cookbook covers most of the categories of candy you can find in a kitchen and some, like lollipops, that I never dreamed you could make at home.

Sharrock began collecting candy recipes when her mother gave her a treasured pressure cooker that was perfect for making candy, along with a small booklet of candy recipes. Sharrock went on to try to preserve the candy recipes from earlier generations, which lends her cookbook an air of nostalgia. Reading through the recipes, I get the sense that these candies populated the tables at church bazaars and community potlucks, in the days before mass-produced sweets took their place.

This means that for the most part, the recipes use ingredients that you’d easily find at the supermarket. The few specialty items, like candy coating, can be found at baking supply stores. But, just because these recipes are old fashioned, doesn’t mean that they’re all unsophisticated. The pralines, divinity, and nougats would make a sweets table shine and even recipes that were thought of as homey, like taffy, seem very impressive these days. You won’t learn skills like tempering chocolate or making marshmallows from scratch, but once you’ve mastered this book, taking your candy making to the next level will be a breeze.

What I like best about this book is that it teaches you a wide range of candy making skills, includes troubleshooting advice and photo demonstrations, and even guides you through the steps you’d need to take if you were trying to recreate a favourite candy without the recipe.

I think after working through some of Sharrock’s categories of sweets, next year’s holiday treat boxes will be the best they’ve ever been. In the meantime, I’m going to give Sharrock’s tuxedo fudge another try. I forgot to put the coconut into the bottom layer and added it to the top, instead. As a result, the bottom is creamy, but the top is a bit dry. Following the instructions should make my next attempt perfect. Thanks to Robert Robert Rose, Inc., I’m sharing the recipe with you. If you’re still on holidays next week, it would be a great way to start filling your freezer with goodies before the New Year’s resolutions set in.


Tuxedo Fudge

Makes about 3 1/2 lbs (1.75 kg)

8- or 9-inch (20 or 23 cm) square pan, lined with parchment or buttered
2-quart heavy saucepan
Candy thermometer

Coconut Layer
2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter or margarine
1/4 cup (60 mL) light (white) corn syrup
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125 mL) sweetened flaked coconut

Chocolate Layer
2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (30 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter or margarine
1/4 cup (60 mL) light (white) corn syrup
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125 mL) pecans, in large pieces (optional)

1. To make the coconut layer: In heavy saucepan over low to medium-low heat, bring the sugar, salt, butter, corn syrup and milk to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes to dissolve the sugar crystals on the sides of the pan. Remove the lid. Cook, stirring only as needed to prevent scorching, to the soft ball stage (234°F to 240°F/112°C to 116°C, with 236°F/113°C recommended).
2. Remove from the heat. Cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the vanilla. Beat by hand until the candy begins to thicken and lose its gloss. Stir in the coconut. Spread the candy into the prepared pan. Cool at room temperature while making the chocolate layer.
3. To make the chocolate layer: In a clean saucepan, combine the sugar and cocoa until well blended. Add the salt, butter, corn syrup and milk. Bring to a boil over low to medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes to dissolve the sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Remove the lid. Cook, stirring only as needed to prevent scorching, to the soft ball stage (234°F to 240°F/112°C to 116°C, with 236°F/113°C recommended).
4. Remove from the heat. Cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the vanilla. Beat by hand until the candy begins to thicken and lose its gloss. Stir in the pecans, if desired. Spread the chocolate layer over the coconut layer in the pan. Cool and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the sweet tooth, the nostalgic, and the cook who wants to extend their gifts from the kitchen beyond cookies and squares.

You can find the rest of this year’s reviews here and here..

Holiday Book Reviews – The Healthy Slow Cooker


I don’t know about you, but this is the week when my Christmas shopping always begins in earnest. So, for the second year in a row, I’m bringing you three book reviews to help you cross a few names off your list.

I received a review copy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition from Robert Rose Inc. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

I know that I post a lot about French food and desserts around here, but most of the time I try to cook healthy meals. It might seem challenging to do so when trying to balance the needs of an omnivore with a vegan-ish, gluten-free eater, but it isn’t really. We never ate very much bread with our meals and there are plenty of great grains that can satisfy our carbohydrate requirements. As for protein, I’ve always been of the mind that meat and dairy shouldn’t be the primary focus of weekly meals, so we were already eating a largely plant-based diet before my partner started his move toward veganism.

What can be challenging is making sure we have enough variety in our diet, so that we’re covering all the nutrient groups as we eat across the week. It’s easy to get into a routine, making the same few dishes over and over, with a little experimentation on the weekends. Much better to find ways to change things up more frequently.

One of my favourite ways to do that is to make use of my slow cooker. Not only can I fill it and forget it for the workday or overnight, having a large slow cooker means that I can make recipes in quantities that allow me to package and freeze several meals’ worth.

Unfortunately, a lot of slow cooker cookbooks focus on heavy meals that cycle through a limited roster of protein-starch-vegetable combinations. So, I was happy to find The Healthy Slow Cooker has a variety of recipes, both meat and plant-based, with a focus on using nutrient-dense ingredients. The best part is that all the recipes are gluten-free.

Judith Finlayson is well-known to Canadians as a writer and editor, but has become especially famous for her prolific publication of useful cookbooks. Many of them are slow cooker cookbooks, focusing on different health needs or dietary practices. The Healthy Slow Cooker is in its second edition, which came out earlier this year. This means that the recipes are updated, but more importantly, the nutrition tips and health information are more current now, too.

Those tips and information boxes, called “Mindful Morsels” and “Natural Wonders” are a welcome feature of Finlayson’s book. There are the kinds of information you might expect, like the sections breaking down the nutritional benefits of mushrooms or bell peppers, which help bring home the reasons for eating a wide variety of foods. But there are also sections that go into more depth, explaining the role of elements like fatty acids and micronutrients in our diets, why some foods which should always be bought from organic sources, or shopping with environmental concerns and sustainability in mind.

The recipes come from a number of culinary traditions, including Caribbean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian flavours. They also make use of common ingredients, without ignoring some of the ingredients (think edamame or sunchokes) that have been showing up more and more in markets. There are lots of vegan or vegetarian dishes, while many of the recipes that weren’t explicitly vegetarian or vegan could easily be converted, like her Sweet Potato Coconut Curry. And most of the truly meat-based meals are freezable, ready for those times when I’m eating solo.

When I was deciding which recipe to share with you, I thought about how much of a boon fresh, vibrant food is on the winter table. Even though summer vegetables are long gone, many of them are available frozen, almost as nutrient-rich as when they were picked. Finlayson’s take on succotash was exactly what I was looking for, incorporating corn, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, and edamame with the warmth of paprika. It’s bright on the table, filling, and a good match for many different main courses. Best of all, it’s freezable, letting you enjoy it across the coldest months. (If you make it in summer, you can use garden-fresh ingredients and freeze some of it for winter.)

New Age Succotash

reprinted with permission from Judith Finlayson’s Healthy Slow Cooker

Serves 8

1 Medium to large (3 1/2 to 5 quart) slow cooker

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary or 2 tsp (10 mL) dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cracked black peppercorns
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) no-salt-added tomatoes, including juice, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) vegetable stock
4 cups (1 L) frozen shelled edamame
2 tsp (10 mL) paprika, dissolved in 2 tbsp (30 mL) water
4 cups (1 L) corn kernels, thawed if frozen
2 roasted red bell peppers, diced
1/2 cup (125 mL)finely chopped parsley leaves

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary, salt and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes with juice and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.

Add edamame and stir well. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until mixture is hot and bubbly. Stir in paprika solution. Add corn, roasted red peppers and parsley and stir well. Cover and cook on High for 15 minutes, until corn is tender and mixture is heated through.

Spicy Succotash: For a livelier dish, stir in 1 can (4.5 oz./127 mL) mild green chiles along with the red peppers.

This is a terrific side for a braised tofu dish, or more traditionally, for a big platter of ribs. Finlayson includes a recipe for a corn and chile polenta in the cookbook, which would be a nice addition to either of these meals. Really, though, this dish would fit whenever you’d otherwise consider serving the usual boiled, steamed (or canned) vegetables.

I’ll be coming back to this cookbook often, both for the recipes and the information.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the busy, the gluten-free, and those who want variety and flavour in their healthy menus.

Come back tomorrow for a review of a book that brings vegetarian eating to a new level.

Kevin’s Vegan Hash


The Little Potato Company provided me with the potatoes used in this recipe. The recipe and all opinions expressed in the post are my own.

When I was given the opportunity to try The Little Potato Company’s creamer potatoes, I was happy to participate. The company started in Alberta, but now has farms across Canada and the US. They produce creamer potatoes exclusively, which are bred to stay small at maturity, with a thin, tender skin. I was also happy to learn their potatoes are non-GMO.

I spent the last few weeks boiling, baking, frying, and mashing the samples of the two varieties they sent me and I’ve been pleased with them in every application.

Last week, I shared a very meat-forward recipe using Blushing Belles. This week, I’ve got a vegan recipe for you, which uses their Yellow Fingerlings.

My partner, Kevin, wanted me to recreate the kind of breakfast that he’s had at the very few restaurants in town that serve gluten-free, vegan meals. I came up with this hash and he liked it so much, he let me name it after him.


Kevin’s Vegan Hash

Serves 2 generously as a main, 4 as a side

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 small bell peppers, cubed
6 button mushrooms, cubed
12 Little Potato Company Yellow Fingerlings Creamer Potatoes, cubed
175 g extra firm organic tofu, cubed
a pinch of cayenne pepper
2 sage leaves, crumbled (or ½ tsp dried sage)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
¼ tsp smoked paprika
½ cup Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds
salt and pepper

In a large, non-stick skillet or cast iron pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and salt generously. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and start to brown. Add the garlic and turn down the heat to low. Continue to cook until the garlic has softened and the onions are completely browned. Season with pepper (and more salt if needed). Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Add a little more oil, if needed, then heat the pan to medium-low and add the peppers. Cook until the peppers are soft and a little browned, stirring occasionally, adding a pinch of cayenne pepper when they’re nearly done. Season with salt and pepper, scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Add a little more oil, if needed, then heat the pan to medium-low and add the mushrooms, stirring occasionally. When they begin to release moisture, stir in the sage. When the moisture is fully reabsorbed, season with salt and pepper, scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Add a tablespoon of oil, heat the pan to medium-low and add the potatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper, add the rosemary sprig (or stir in the dried rosemary). Cook, stirring occasionally, until a fork pierces the potato cubes easily. If the potatoes are not fully browned, raise the heat to medium and continue cooking until they are. Check to see if more salt and pepper is needed, discard the rosemary sprig if you used it, then scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Add a little more oil, if needed, then heat the pan to medium-low. Add the tofu and dust the cubes with the smoked paprika, frying until the cubes are cooked through and well browned. Season with salt and pepper, then add the rest of the ingredients back into the pan, stirring until everything is well mixed and heated through.

Take the pan off the heat and add the Daiya shreds, stirring until they are well distributed and melted.

Check for salt and pepper, then serve immediately.

You can visit The Little Potato Company’s website for more recipes.

Patate Alpino

Patate Alpino - roasted creamer potatoes with Italian cheeses and Bresaola

The Little Potato Company provided me with the potatoes used in this recipe. The recipe and all opinions expressed in the post are my own.

I don’t care who knows it. I love potatoes. Roasted, mashed, boiled, smashed, simmered, braised, caked, or scalloped – bring ’em on. So, when I got the opportunity to play around with The Little Potato Company‘s creamer potatoes, I was right on board.

It’s been fun experimenting with these tiny, tender, flavourful potatoes. The recipe I’m sharing with you today was inspired by thoughts of Swiss raclette, but it’s got an Italian twist, since my neighbourhood is famous for its Italian delis and coffee shops.

When I was tracking down ingredients for a dish I made recently with my cooking group, I ended up with quite a lot of Bresaola. Since raclette is often served with air-dried beef and roasted potatoes, it seemed a natural fit for the little red Blushing Belle potatoes I’d been working with. In keeping with the Italian theme, I chose a mix of Asiago and Parmesan cheeses to complete the recipe.

Patate Alpino - roasted creamer potatoes with Italian cheeses and Bresaola

Patate Alpino

Serves 4 as a side; 2 as an appetizer or small plate

12 Little Potato Company Blushing Belle potatoes
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves, unpeeled
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

15 grams of grated Asiago cheese
15 grams of grated Parmesan cheese
10-15 grams (1-2 very thin slices) Bresaola, shredded

Centre a rack in your oven and preheat to 400°F.

Toss the potatoes, garlic, rosemary, and thyme in the oil and then add several grinds of pepper. Salt lightly, or not at all, as Bresaola is quite salty enough. Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes, stirring around the 20 minute mark.

While the potatoes are roasting, grate the cheeses and mix them together. Shred the Bresaola and reserve separately.

When the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, remove them from the oven and preheat the broiler to 500°F. Discard the rosemary and thyme and remove the garlic from the roasting pan.

You have two choices with the garlic. You can keep the cloves warm and serve them with the potatoes, or (my favourite) you can squeeze the cloves out of their skins immediately and spread them on toasted rounds of baguette. (If you have leftovers, add them to your next batch of mashed potatoes.)

Gently crush each potato with a potato masher, taking care to leave them reasonably intact, then give them another grind or two of pepper. Sprinkle each potato with the cheese mixture and then place the potatoes under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Carefully move the potatoes to a serving platter, using a metal offset spatula, then top each with a mound of shredded Bresaola.

Patate Alpino - roasted creamer potatoes with Italian cheeses and Bresaola

This dish can serve as a side, but I think it really shines as a snack. With a glass of Italian red wine or a Belgian-style beer, it’s a satisfying way to warm up on a cold winter’s day.

If you’d like to take these potatoes back to the other side of the Alps, substitute Gruyère or Emmental cheese, with viande des Grisons (or Bündnerfleisch) as a topping. In that case, you might want to reach for a French vintage.

I didn’t stop there with my recipe experimentation with my stock of little potatoes. Come back next Thursday and I’ll have one more recipe for you. In the meantime, you can visit The Little Potato Company’s website for more recipes.

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

Ginger Peach Crisp and Nairn’s Oatcakes – A Review


Nairn’s Oatcakes provided me with samples of their products for review. However, all opinions in this post are my own.

I think there’s something both a little homey and a little elegant about oatcakes. They put me in mind of tea and not-too-sweet biscuits with my Irish grandmother. They are also at home on an hors d’oeuvre table, the earthy nuttiness of oats being a perfect foil for dips and spreads, and a nice change from wheat crackers.

So, I was pleased when Nairn’s gave me an opportunity to review their Canadian line of oatcakes. They’re just the sort of thing I like to keep in the cupboard for a snack or light lunch.

Image provided by Nairn's Oatcakes.
Image provided by Nairn’s Oatcakes.
Image provided by Nairn's Oatcakes.
Image provided by Nairn’s Oatcakes.

I’ve been eating the oatcakes they sent me all week. The sweet variety are perfect for snacking, but they’re not the North American sugar bombs you might associate with the word cookie. Think of them as biscuits, in the British tradition, instead. Then you’ll be on the right track. I especially like the mixed berry and the ginger flavours with a cup of tea, but the dark chocolate chip flavour is just made for dipping in your coffee. The savoury ones are delicious on their own, but I prefer to make tiny tartines of them, topping them with soft cheeses and berries. They’d also be great with rillettes.

Nairn’s provides lots of recipes and serving suggestions on their website, examples of which you can see in the photos here.

I decided to take the ginger cookies for a spin in the oven, because their spiciness reminded me that I had a bag of ripe Okanagan peaches in the fridge, waiting to be made into a crisp. I used them, crushed, to replace the flour in the topping for the crisp and they worked really well.

I’ve been making variations of this recipe since I was in elementary school. I haven’t actually looked at a recipe for a crisp in years – I use taste and touch to determine when the topping is just right. So, you should think of the recipe below as more of a guideline than a strict set of instructions. If your topping is moist and crumbly, and as sweet as you’d like it to be, it’s ready to top your fruit. I like my topping traditional, but you can add chopped nuts, seeds, or dried fruit to the mix. You can also add dried fruit to the bottom of your crisp. And if your fruit is sweet and juicy, you really don’t need to add any sugar to the bottom. Especially if you’re going to serve your crisp warm, with ice cream. (Yes, that’s a hint.)

Ginger Peach Crisp

1 8X5X2 baking dish

6 – 8 ripe, juicy peaches
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp vanilla sugar (optional)

5 Nairn’s Stem Ginger Oat Cookies
1/3 – 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/8 – 1/4 cup softened butter

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Peel and chop the peaches into bite-sized chunks. Stir in the ginger, tarragon, and vanilla sugar (if using) and leave the peaches to marinate for ten minutes or so.

Crush the ginger oat cookies to a fine consistency. I used our mini food processor, but you can use a mortar and pestle or a ziplock bag and a rolling pin, too. Combine the crushed cookies with the brown sugar and oats, then work the butter in with your fingers until you have a moist, crumbly mixture.

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

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes.

Image provided by Nairn's Oatcakes.
Image provided by Nairn’s Oatcakes.

You can find a list of retailers of Nairn’s oatcakes near you on their website. Thanks to Nairn’s for the opportunity to review their oatcakes.