Cook the Book Fridays – Le Grand Aioli

Le Grand Aioli

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

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

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

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

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

No-Knead French Bread

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

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Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

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

The Silver Palate Cookbook

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

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

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

1 8X5X2 baking dish

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

Topping

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

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

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

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

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

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes.

Cook the Book Fridays – Baba Ganoush & Tourteau Fromager

Baba ganoush

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

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

Tourteau fromager

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

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

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

Cook the Book Fridays – Eggplant Caviar

Eggplant Caviar

The sky this morning was an poisonous shade of orange and all day there has been a visible haze of smoke. The air has a heaviness that I haven’t felt since I was in Mexico City and I’ve been limiting my dog walks to a block or so for days.

It’s better here than through much of the province – Kamloops scored a horrifying 49 on the Air Quality Health Index and Clinton’s Mayor warned that a wildfire may threaten the hydro station that fuels much of MetroVancouver and the Island. The city has emptied out for the long weekend, save for those celebrating Pride Weekend and the Powell Street Festival, with many people in search of clearer air.

But, I’m supposed to be writing about something much more pleasantly smoky. [Aside: When did smokey become an old-fashioned spelling?] I charred some eggplants on the grill this evening, then finished them in the oven. I scooped out the pulp and whirred it in the food processor with lemon, garlic, smoked paprika, and basil. Then, I served it with crackers and toasted French bread.

It’s the kind of dip that I enjoy taking on a bike ride or a hike as much as I do serving it as part of a buffet. I whirred it a little too long to live up to its name, but the flavour is still terrific. It’s salty, earthy, herbacious, and spicy. It would have been lovely as part of an al fresco meal, under normal circumstances, but tonight it took a little bit of the sting out of staying indoors.

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

Cook the Book Fridays – Hummus

Hummus garnished with dukkah, smoked paprika, and olive oil

I find that it’s in warmer weather than my refrigerator fills with dips, sauces, and condiments. In colder months, it’s filled with soups and stews, one pot meals that need no additional seasoning, save for a quick gremolata or a dusting of seasoned breadcrumbs. I might find myself thinking I should whip up some romesco or chimichurri, but I rarely do.

This seasonal shift might be because mix-and-match buffets are perfect for outdoor eating; or that tartines showcasing summer produce need just a swipe of something flavourful to complete them; or that hot weather saps my will to cook and suppresses my appetite, so it’s best to fill the fridge with quick and tempting food. It’s probably the last one, if I’m being honest. The others are simply collateral benefits.

Irises

In any case, June is a great time to perfect your house hummus recipe, before it gets too hot and in time for all those picnics you’re going to organize in July and August. This hummus is a great place to start. There aren’t any flavourings incorporated into the hummus itself, save for lemon, garlic and tahini, making it a blank canvas for whatever you choose to garnish it with. I used dukkah and smoked paprika, as suggested, along with a drizzle of olive oil and it went nicely with the rye crackers I had on hand.

I made a full batch, which is at least enough for the weekend. I think I might make some flat breads tomorrow and fill them with hummus and fresh vegetables, for a bit of Eighties nostalgia and some easy weekend eating.

Hummus

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

Cook the Book Fridays – Multigrain Bread

Multigrain Bread

I can’t believe that it’s been more than a month since I shared a meal with my Cook the Book Fridays friends. I’ve missed checking in on everyone’s blog and telling everyone else about another one of My Paris Kitchen‘s terrific recipes.

This week, I couldn’t miss out. Baking bread is one of my favourite meditative occupations and it’s one I don’t do often enough. This recipe might help me with that – here’s a bulleted list to prove it:

  • The only preparation needed is a starter that’s mixed the night before and left to bubble away in a warmish place (which is easier now that the weather is finally warming up).
  • It’s kneaded in the stand mixer, but the dough isn’t taxing on my KitchenAid’s motor.
  • It uses items I regularly stock, like bread flour and a variety of seeds, requiring only one addition to my pantry – a $3.00 bag of whole wheat pastry flour.
  • It’s a great excuse to break out my Dutch oven, which gives it a perfectly chewy, crisp crust.
  • The crumb is tender and almost uniform, making this a candidate for all-time favourite sandwich bread.
  • It’s much more flavourful than any grocery store multigrain and it’s not that far removed from a good bakery loaf.
  • It’s easily adaptable to whatever add-ins your pantry can provide.

If that hasn’t convinced you to try this bread, perhaps the recipe itself might. You can find it over on Fine Cooking. It’s a perfect weekend bread. You only have to attend to it for a few minutes at a time, over the course of a morning or afternoon, while you get on with chores, cooking, or crosswords. (Or the much more exciting things you may be getting up to on Saturday – I choose comfort and alliteration, for this weekend at least.)

Multigrain Bread, from starter to finish.

I didn’t have any issues making the bread, save for needing to bake it about ten minutes longer than the recipe called for. Some of the other cooks in our group needed to adjust the temperature, timing, or hydration a little for their loaves. I took Betsy‘s advice and added the seeds partway through the initial knead, wrapping a kitchen towel around my stand mixer to avoid flying flax seeds.

Multigrain Bread, full of seeds

The only other problem I had was patience. I cut into it before it was cool, slightly munching the edge of the cut loaf, as you can see in the photo above. The good news is that when it was truly cool, it cut like a dream. And I don’t regret my impatience, because there are few pleasures like warm, fresh bread slathered with butter. It’s certainly worth one minorly crumpled crust.

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

Cook the Book Fridays – Green Beans with Snail Butter

Green Beans with Snail Butter

Some of my earliest restaurant memories involve escargots. My parents wanted their children to be comfortable in establishments ranging from hamburger joints to fine dining rooms, and they also wanted us to be willing to try anything on the menu. It helped that escargots are a favourite of my mother’s, so we were exposed to them early and often. It helped, even more, that they were drowned in delicious, garlicky, lemony butter. You haven’t lived until you’ve had that butter running down your chin. (You weren’t raised by my parents if that happened more than once.)

These days, I appreciate a version that doesn’t involve the fuss of making escargots at home, appeals to vegetarians, and can even be veganized in a pinch. Green beans are chameleons in the kitchen and take to lashings of lemony garlic butter beautifully. In this recipe, they’re steamed before being finished in the pan, but they could just as easily be blanched, if that works better for you.

All the minced garlic!

I was tempted to pick up a baguette to soak up the butter, but I decided to add it to some red sauce, instead. It’s the time of year when winter pantry staples start to feel very tired. Adding this butter gave the sauce a richness and freshness of flavour that made me forget that fresh tomatoes are still months away.

Lemony garlic butter on green beans.

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

Cook the Book Fridays – Wheat Berry Salad

Wheat Berry Salad

The full title of this recipe is Wheat Berry Salad with Radicchio, Root Vegetables, and Pomegranate and it’s really hard to single out a component that’s the star of the show in this salad. They all work together so beautifully and chase away any end-of-winter ennui that root vegetables may hold at this time of year. I especially loved the dressing of olive oil, lemon, Dijon mustard, and pomegranate molasses. This salad is going to fuel me for a few days.

It was a good recipe to jump back into the group with, after a short post-Christmas blog break. I so appreciate connecting with the other bloggers in this group, something that I’ve been particularly aware of this week.

Many of us cooked through Around My French Table together and we heard the sad news that one of our friends from that project has passed away. Kathy of Bakeaway with Me would have made a gorgeous version of this salad and showed it off with her beautiful photography. She’ll be missed, as a kind and generous cornerstone of our Dorista community; as a talented blogger, recipe developer, and photographer; and of course, as a mother, grandmother, and friend. My thoughts are with her family and community.

Wheat Berry Salad

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

Cottage Cooking Club – February 2017

River Cottage Everyday & Love Your Leftovers

The Cottage Cooking Club is back, for a six-month journey through two more River Cottage cookbooks, River Cottage Everyday and River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers. Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness is taking a more free-wheeling approach to this iteration of the club, asking members to choose whichever recipes strike their fancy and post about them on the 28th of each month.

River Cottage Veg is one of my go to cookbooks for simple weeknight eating, so I was happy to add River Cottage Everyday to my collection. And I fell in love with Love Your Leftovers when I reviewed it just before the holidays.

I hope to cook a little more from both books over the next few months, but for this month, I’m starting with a snack that is cheaper and better for you than its supermarket counterparts.

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars

I couldn’t wait until these were cooled completely to cut a couple of tester squares. If I’d waited until they were completely cool, they would have had straighter edges, but it was worth it. These bars are a perfect snack, warm or cold. They have a fair amount of sugar and butter in them, but they’re also full of dried fruit and seeds. I chose dried cranberries, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Along with the chunky peanut butter and oats, I’d say they make these bars a healthy choice.

They’re naturally gluten-free (as long as you use gluten-free safe oats) and they’d be easy to make vegan, with golden syrup in place of honey and a healthy-ish margarine standing in for the butter.

I love this kind of recipe, because the results can be as varied as the contents of your pantry and you can customize them as much as you like. I’ve found this to be a hallmark of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes, one of the many things that brings me back to his cookbooks so frequently. I’m sure I’ll find a host of new favourites while working through this round of the club.

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

Cook the Book Fridays – Fresh Herb Omelette

Vancouver's "Snowpocalype" was pretty at times.

Happy New Year! I hope 2017 brings plenty of good things, though it’s sure to be a challenging year, as well. My December was hectic and celebratory and my blog schedule suffered as a result. I don’t regret it at all, but I did miss keeping up with my friends at Cook the Book Fridays. So, I’m catching up on most of the dishes I missed in December, along with posting about our very first selection of 2017.

Fresh Herb Omelette

Fresh Herb Omelette

After all the complicated dishes, rich holiday favourites and baking, baking, baking, a simple omelette was a wonderful way to usher in a new year of cooking together. I’ve often skimped on butter when making omelettes, but faithfully using the quantity specified in this recipe gave this omelette the kind of crust and soft, fluffy interior I’m only used to at restaurants. No more skimping on butter for me.

Pissaladière

Pissaladière

I first made Pissaladière when I was cooking through Around My French Table with French Fridays with Dorie, way back in 2011. It’s a dish I don’t revisit often enough, so I was glad to have a reminder of how much I like this onion, anchovy, and olive tart. I’m not sure I can choose between the two versions. I like them both, though it is convenient that David’s dough doesn’t require an egg – with the number of eggs I ran through during holiday baking, that was probably more important than it would be in the summertime.

This is something I like to make for company, but I was on my own for it this time around. I didn’t “minify” it, though. Instead, I made the full recipe, pulling it out when it was fully baked, but not as browned as I like it. I cut it into squares, put one back in the oven to brown, and put the rest into the fridge in a covered container, once they’d cooled. That gave me several days’ worth of this delicious treat, each slice of which was just as good as the first, once it got its second round in the oven.

Grated Carrot Salad

Grated Carrot Salad

This is another dish that was also tackled by the French Fridays crew when I was cooking through Around My French Table, but this version skips the raisins and nuts, focusing on carrot, herbs, and a lemon-mustard dressing. I’m all in favour of that. Simple salads that go with almost anything else you’re serving aren’t just the stuff of January resolutions – they’re year-round necessities that make meals shine.

I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone else’s posts from December and I’m also looking forward to what’s in store on the blog in the next few weeks. There will be a chocolate tasting to tell you about and a risotto recipe or two to share. I’ll be updating you on the progress of my spider plant and making good on my intention to share more about community this year. In these times, I think it’s good to celebrate the ways in which we come together, don’t you?

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