Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Big Bowl of Phở Gà

Nick has been fighting a cold for what seems like weeks now.  Best way to fight a cold in my humble opinion, lots of liquids.  Lots of blankets.  Lots of rest.  A big huge brothy hydrating bowl of Phở Gà.  
A jazzed up version of the standard chicken noodle soup, it's the best warm, spicy, simple, complex, hearty soup, with lots of delicious broth.  Helpful in the cold months when the immune system is down.
You're going to need the bones of a previously cooked chicken.  If you don't have an extra chicken carcass, you can ask for a couple of pounds of chicken bones or soup bones from your butcher.
You'll need:
1 whole organic chicken, cut into quarters
1 left over chicken carcass (to make bone broth) +  4 1/2 - 5 liters of cold water 
2 onions, skin left on and quartered
3 1-inch slices of garlic, skin on, and smashed 
1 star anise
a pinch of fennel seeds
2 spoons of sugar, a big pinch of salt
a scant 1/4 cup of fish sauce (a bit less than 1/4 cup)
1 handful of brown rice noodles
two big handfuls of baby bok choy
Garnishes: lime wedges, sliced fried shallots, thinly sliced jalapenos, bean sprouts, cilantro, torn basil, sriracha, hoisin 
Place the quartered onions and smashed ginger into a pan and into the oven at high heat (450 degrees) until the onions are charred (20 minutes).  Fill a pot with 4.5 litres of water and bring to a boil.  Put the fresh chicken, the chicken carcass, sugar and salt, and onions and ginger into the hot water and bring to a boil again, and then lower the heat to simmer for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
 Take the cooked chicken out of the pot and put on a plate.  Pull the cooked chicken off the bones, and throw the bones and skin back in the pot.  Simmer the stock with the lid off to reduce the stock further, for about an hour and a half.
While you wait you can 1) fry some scallions and prepare garnishes and 2) cook the noodles according to package directions.
When the stock is ready pour it through a strainer into a bowl and pour the liquid back into the pot.  Add the fish sauce and the bok choy, heating the vegetable through until soft.
To serve, place a handful of cooked noodles, a scoop of bok choy, and as much chicken as you like into a bowl, and ladle the stock over top.  Garnish with all the fixin's, and eat while it's hot!  With chop sticks in your right hand and a big spoon in your left, do what you gotta do to get the noodles and the liquid into your mouth.
 dinner is served.
without any wine.
stay warm, and healthy.
bon appétit.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lemon Tart and Ice Cider

This tart crust was the most delicious crust I've made, and the easiest.  I'll forever use this recipe.  Ready for this?  Heat the over at 410 degrees.  In an oven safe bowl place 90 g of unsalted butter chopped up, 3 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of canola oil, big pinch of salt.  Put the bowl in the oven for about 15 minutes, until everything is melted and the edge of the liquid starts to brown.  Carefully take it out of the oven (carefully, it may spatter), and add 1 rounded cup of flour.  Stir until all the ingredients are mixed and it sits together in a ball, and dump the dough into a pie pan and smooth it out flat with a spatula.  Wait a few minutes till it's cool enough to touch, and spread the dough out with your hands until it's even, all the way up the sides.  Prick it everywhere with a fork, and place it back in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown.  Voila.  Simple.
You'll need about 6 meyer lemons to squeeze a cup of lemon juice...  but first zest two of the lemons and place aside.
Lower the oven temp to 350 degrees.
Crack 4 eggs into a small bowl, add an additional 4 yolks, and whisk together.
In a large sauce pan add 1 cup of meyer lemon juice, the zest of two lemons, 130 g of sugar, and 85 g of chopped up butter.  Heat on low until the butter has melted.  Pour some of the liquid into the bowl of eggs, whisking them together to warm the eggs up.  Add the egg mixture back into the pan stirring constantly so the eggs don't cook.  Stir over low heat until it thickens and almost starts to bubble around the edges.
Pour the lemon curd through a strainer into the tart shell.  You'll need to push it through with a spatula.  Smooth the top and pop it in the oven for 7-10 minutes to set the curd.  
 Let it cool at room temp or in a cold room for hours before serving.  The waiting is painful but necessary...  Open a bottle of desert wine that will compliment the sweetness and delicate tartness.
2007 Clos Saragnat “Avalanche…” Cidre de Glance – Ice Cider

With a sweet dessert, you need to pair it with a wine that is even sweeter then the food itself. Luckily, I had an interesting bottle of Ice Cider that a friend had given me a few years ago. This was a perfect opportunity to pop it open. Dessert wines do always get better with age, but I recommend opening them every chance you get. We live in a region that makes some of the best Ice Wines & Ice Ciders in the world, and we seldom serve them at our tables. That is something I hope begins to chance in Ontario. 
This ice cider is made in Quebec and comes from a blend of 4 different types of apples that are harvested late in the winter. Just like the grapes for ice wine.The cider smells like delicious apple pie with Christmas spices. It has a beautiful mouth feel with a great balancing acidity that washes all the sweetness away. The finish is long and harmonious. A really great dessert wine/cider. Unfortunately, you can’t find this in the LCBO, but you can buy it at SAQ shops in Quebec for Just under $30/.

desert is served.
bon appétit.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Roasted Spiced Chicken and Montepulciano

We roasted a chicken, it happens many weekends in this house.  We roast the chicken, roast all kinds of veggies and are sure to make a soup of some sort out of chicken bone broth.  It's a cold weather tradition.
This time, we grabbed inspiration from the Ottolenghi boys.  I met them at a cooking demo and book signing with Chatelaine Magazine and have been excited to try a few things with sumac all over them.  Their love and affection for sumac was so much so that I went out and bought a big bottle.  
1 big organic chicken chopped into pieces, and mix the peices in a bowl with 2 thinly sliced red onions, 2 crushed garlic cloves, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, 1.5 tsp of all spice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of sumac, 1 lemon thinly sliced, and 1 cup of stock or water.  Let this marinate in the fridge for a few hours, even overnight if you want.
Arrange the chicken (and everything else in the bowl) onto a baking sheet, skin side up.  Sprinkle with 2 big tablespoons of Zatar.  Put in the oven at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes (until chicken is cooked through).
While the chicken is in the over, melt 4 teaspoons of butter in a frying pan and add 4 big spoonfuls of pine nuts.  Roast the nuts, stirring constantly, until they are golden brown.  Dump them in a bowl lined with paper towel to absorb extra butter while you wait for the chicken to be done.
Plate the chicken with all the goodness also in the pan, and top with toasted pine nuts and a handful of torn parsley.
 We roasted some carrots and potatoes with honey and sumac as a side, and did a delicious salad with 1 cup of quinoa (we mixed black and white), 1 pomegranate, a handful of feta and a handful of raw pumpkin seeds, drizzled with olive oil, squeezed with the juice of half a lemon, and also a sprinkle of lemony delicious sumac.
You won't regret buying a bottle of sumac, I promise.  Nor will you regret roasting anything with sumac, especially a big old organic chicken for sunday supper.
This Tuscan wine was a present from some good friends a few months ago. It's been in our kitchen cellar and I've been eager to pop it for a while. It is a Sangiovese based blend that is required to age in oak barrels for 2 years (three years would make it a Riserva.)
This Tuscan wine (Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano) is often confused with another wine from a different region in Italy called Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, which is a red wine made from the Montepulciano grape in the Abruzzo region of east-central Italy. 
Leave it up to the Italians to make this wine world even more confusing than it already is.
Regardless of its namesake, requirements or appellation control, this is a great wine for a dish with such aromatic spices. The wine is filled with red berry fruits, spices, lemon, minerals and flowers. It also has some nice chewy tannins that make it drink above its class. This one is available in the LCBO.
VINTAGES #348532 | 750 mL bottle  Price $ 23.95 
bon appetit.
dinner is served. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Seeds and Oats and Nuts, Oh My

This loaf can be gluten free, but it doesn't mean it's only for gluten free eaters.  I know the whole idea of a loaf of bread made only of seeds and nuts seems a bit daunting or heavy but it's delicious, nutritious, full of flavour, and WAY more interesting than a slice of toast.  The recipe comes from my favourite vegetarian blogger, Sarah at  She calls it "The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread," and she's certainly not wrong.

1 cup sunflower seeds, ½ cup flax seeds, ½ cup raw almonds, 1 ½ cups rolled oats, 2 Tbsp. chia seeds, 4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder) 1 tsp. fine grain sea salt, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, 3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil,  1 ½ cups water
In a loaf pan combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let sit out on the counter overnight. 
Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack (or on a pan if it's too crumbly) and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (important that it cools!).
Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast!

I put a slice in the toaster and top it with raw honey.  Delicious snack.
bon appétit

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chanterelles, corn off the cob, and Crémant Du Jura

We just got back from our honeymoon in Charlevoix, where I ate wild local chanterelles as much as I could.  'Tis the season.  I love mushrooms.  Of all kinds.  But chanterelles are close to the heart.  With such a beautiful colour, the rarity of finding them, a delicate taste, and so easy to cook, I vote them as one of the top mushrooms out there.  
Went to the Leslieville market this weekend, our new local, and spotted beautiful boxes of local wild fresh chanterelles.  No brainer.  Bought a box, and then some corn on the cob.  And then some fresh corn taco shells.  There's a guy at the market, City Gourmet that sells delicious prepared food, and also sells his shells.  We've been buying them a lot.  I'd recommend them.  A good shell makes a world of a difference!
BBQ the corn inside the husks on the grill for 10 minutes then peeled back the husk and char the kernels on high for 1-2 minutes a side.  Might want to consider grilling chicken or some other protein if you're in the mood for meat...
I heated a pan and added bacon grease that we diligently keep in the fridge.  You can use butter or olive oil if you prefer but bacon and mushroom is a pretty good combo.  I sauteed the mushrooms (after ripping them into smaller pieces), and added some mexican spices.  Slice the corn right off the cob directly into the pan.  Stir, heat, serve in a bowl.
Grill the shells for 30 seconds to warm them up.  Include some fun ingredients on the table, fresh tomatoes, guacamole, sliced BBQ chicken, whatever your heart desires.
 We drank bubbles!  Felt like celebrating a blog post after such a long hiatus.  We disappeared for a short while, but happy to say that we're back on track and looking forward to posting all kinds of inspiration we've been stirring up in the kitchen.  We've been pleasantly preoccupied with a busy busy spring and summer that we lost track of blogging it all.  We planned a wedding, bought a new home, moved, gutted and built a brand new kitchen, got married, did a little honeymoon, and now we're getting settled again!  And cooking up a storm.
Delicious sparkling chardonnay.  NV Domaine Baud Peres et Fils “Blanc de Blanc” Brut, Crémant de Jura
We decided to pair tonight’s tacos with Domaine Baud Peres et Fils “Blanc de Blanc” Brut, Crémant de Jura.  Jura is the mountainous region the lies north of the western Alps in France. They are well know for the production of Vin Jaune and their incredible values in sparkling wines. This sparkler or Crémant is made in the traditional Champagne style, known as “Method Champenoise .”  It is a “Blanc de Blanc”, which means it is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes.  Also it is a Brut, when talking Champagnes, that means it is dry, not sweet. 
It has great apply fruit with citrus, toasted brioche and a stricking minerality. The delicate cremant sparks a great balance between creaminess and vivacity. This wine is very versatile at the table and you can drink this from appetisers all the way through to desert.

Availability: $19.95 + Tax (12x 750ml) Complentary Home/office delivery with

Voila!  Beautiful taco night.
Bon Appétit.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Coq Au Vin and Bordeaux

We've been hibernating.  Curling up with pots of stews and soups full of root veggies and hearty winter flavours.  My apologies for not being able to blog them all.  The problem is they happen so fast!  We pull out a bunch of veggies from the fridge, turn on the stove, and as I turn around to chop the vegetables Nicholas has browned the meat and caramelized some onions and throws all the stuff in the pot and puts the lid on.  Honestly.  I made extra effort to make sure we shared this one.  Coq au Vin is a whole other beast of a one pot meal.  Try this before the snow melts.  Start with a whole chicken and cut into manageable pieces, carefully removing the back bone (and saving it in the freezer for another day for delicious broth!)... or buy pieces of chicken that you like if you're not up to showcasing your butchering skills.
 "Start every pot with a piece of bacon," says Nicholas.  It's one of his top 10 things to say, and the reason for his love of one pot meals, I'm convinced.  Put a handful of diced bacon or pancetta into the dutch oven, stirring until crispy.  Remove and set aside.  Throw a couple handfuls of small crimini mushrooms and small cipollini onions, stirring as they brown in the pancetta fat.  Remove after 7-9 minutes when golden brown, and set aside with the pancetta.   Brown the chicken on all side in the dutch oven for 8-12 minutes, until skin is golden and chicken is slightly cooked.  Remove the chicken and put aside.  
Add diced carrots (4 or 5 of them), a chopped onion, chopped garlic (2 cloves), chopped parsnips (2 large ones), and sautee until soft, 6-8 minutes.  Add a splash (2 big tablespoons) of dark red wine.  Return the pancetta and chicken.  Add 2 cups of stock and the rest of the bottle of wine.  Yes, a whole bottle.  And use a good bottle.
Add desired pinches of herbs, a couple of bay leaves and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.  Add onions and mushrooms and simmer for another 10 minutes, and it's ready.  Portion into bowls with lots of liquid, equal chicken and vegetables, lots of great bread to soak up the juice, and a wonderful glass of wine.  Bordeaux is a go to in this home.
Bordeaux is home to some of the most expensive wines in the world like Mouton, Laffite, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion.  However, there are many great Bordeaux wines readily available at reasonable price points. I t is these Bordeaux wines that have inspired regions around the world to make various blends of Cabernet and Merlot, sometimes refered to as a Meritage blend in Ontario.

In their youth, these Bordeaux Cabernet - Merlot based blends should show fresh black and red berry fruits, oak and spice.  They are a pleasure to drink in all price points and ages. However, Bordeaux is best with a bit of age.  Some wines take 2 -3 years, some will take 10-20 years to fully mature.  They are known to make some of the most age worthy wines in the world.  The 1982 vintage of their top chateau wines are just hitting their prime.

When a good Bordeaux becomes comes into maturity.  It's aromas and flavours change into cooked/stewed/dried red and black fruits with plum and cassis.  That basic oak and spice that showed in its youth will start to through of new tertiary aromas more like leather, spice box, tobacco, mushrooms and graphite.

Here we have the 2004 Chateau Lescalles - Macau en Medoc-Bordeaux Superieur ($18.95 Private order through 750ml x12) There are only a few cases left.  It is almost a decade old and drinking beautifully now.  Lescalles is a small property on the left bank of the Gironde River in between the appellations of Margaux and Haut-Medoc.  They grow old vine/low yielding Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grapes.  After traditional Bordeaux vinification, the wine is aged in french barrels for 12 months before bottling.
bon appétit.  
dinner is served.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Belizean BBQ and a couple of Belikin

We're back!  After a busy Christmas break, and a most wonderful and special trip to Belize, we're back home to winter (and all the warm delicious comfort food that winter brings).

We love exploring local ingredients when we travel.  And when we are somewhere coastal that almost always includes fish and seafood.  Ceviche is on almost every menu you'll encounter when in Belize.  So we started with that in mind as an appetizer.
Off to the market in Corozal, Belize, to gather things for a New Years Eve Backyard BBQ dinner.  We met local fisherman by the water who had a selection of different fish in buckets by their vans by the road.  We bought one big four pound snapper from the first guy that greeted us, and four little fish from the second guy. 
They were eager to show us their filleting skills, but we knew we wanted to roast them whole, so we had them clean the fish and scale them.
We continued down the road to the vegetable stand and picked up a bag of tomatoes, a bunch of cilantro, plantains, spring onions, lemons and limes, and jalapenos and headed back to set up the BBQ!
Fish Ceviche
1 filleted fish, skinned and finely sliced
Juice of 3-4 limes (enough to cover the fish at the bottom of a shallow dish)
1 finely diced onion
3 finely diced tomatoes
1 finely diced jalapeno, if desired
a handful of chopped cilantro
Place the pieces of raw fish at the bottom of the dish and cover in lime juice.  Add onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos and let the dish sit in the fridge for two hours before serving.  Stir in cilantro and serve with chips.
We stuffed the big fish with lots of sliced limes (that look like oranges, it's just the way they are there), onion and a handful of cilantro, tied it up, and put it on a banana leaf over the fire.  We did it on a banana leaf for a little protection from the direct heat, but it's not necessary.  The little fish we put some butter and lime juice inside and put it on the banana leaf as well.

We left the big fish cooking for about 10 minutes a side, and the little ones were done after 4 minutes a side.  Cooking time will vary according to the temperature of the coals, the size of the fish, and how far away your grill is from the fire.

We roasted some radishes, some spring onions, and fried up some sliced plantain in a frying pan with lots of coconut oil.

There is very little wine in Belize.  In fact we were a two hour drive from the closest wine store.  Our more obvious choices in Belize are Belikin, the ONLY brewing company in the country, and rum.    Lots of various kinds of rum with all sorts of interesting mixes.  Coconut water is still my go-to for mix.  Belikin has a very distinct taste, and Lighthouse in the watered down version.  Belikin has an interesting history in the country, as the Bowen family own a monopoly over all beer and soft drinks throughout Belize.  Mexican beer is actually illegal.  The beer is best freezing cold and then it tastes like grains and a good amount of malts to balance out the flavour.  Once warm it gets quite malty and strangely sweet.  But the bottles are small so that shouldn't be a problem, even in the central american heat.

dinner is served.
bon appétit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Paella and Bilogia

Paella - a perfect easy dish for entertaining a large crowd.  It's delicious, cooked all in one pot, can be basically made right before people arrive and stays warm in the oven, can be made with any meats or veggies you desire, and looks pretty impressive too.

Tonight's Chicken Chorizo version:
1 pound of Bomba Rice (special spanish rice)
12 chicken drumsticks
3 spicy chorizo sausages, sliced
1 cup of wine
2 1/2 cups of hot water
2 tablespoons of hot smoked paprika
1 pinch of saffron
1 onion diced
1/4 cup of diced roasted red peppers
1 1/2 cups of frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large roasting pan on the stove at medium-high heat, put a glug of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and add the chicken until all sides are browned.  Take the chicken out and put aside.  Add the onion and chorizo and cook until onions are tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir in paprika, then roasted red peppers, then tomato paste and finally crumble in the saffron threads.  When everything is dissolved, pour in the rice.  Add the wine, and stir it all continuously until the wine is absorbed.  Add the water, bring to a boil, stir in the peas, and then add the drumsticks to the dish in a pretty presentation, and put the whole dish into the oven for 30 minutes.  Voila.
For this pairing, we decided to go with a fantastic Spanish red, a blend of old vine, organic Monastrell and Tempranillo. The 2008 Bodegas Los Frailes "BILOGIA" from DO Valencia.
This winery is located in Valencia (southern Spain) just off the coast of the Mediterranean sea, and high in the hills at over 600 metres above sea level. Valencia creates warm days and cool nights which is optimal for a slow and long ripening period. This lengthy period will produce grapes with great balance and complexity. It boasts nice fruit aromas of blackberry, currant, grilled plum and spices with a bit of really nice earth tones. It is medium to full bodied with nice firm tannins.
Availability:  Delivered to you door in 48 hours. $18.95/btls (Case of 12 x 750ml) +HST.

dinner is served.
bon appétit. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Good Morning Cookies

It's been a crazy November!  Which hasn't left to much time to blog all the delicious food and wine we've been indulging in.  But these breakfast cookies are perfect to have around to take on the go.  These took thirty minutes to whip up, have no sugar or flour or dairy or eggs or butter, and are packed with goodness.

Blueberry Banana Coconut Walnut Cookies
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats (could use gluten free oats)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tablespoon of golden flaxmeal
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup of blueberries
3 over rip bananas, mashed
1/4 cup of coconut oil (liquid)
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine oats, coconut, flaxmeal, salt, nuts and seeds into a bowl.  Mix bananas, oil, honey and vanilla in another bowl and add mixture to the dry bowl.  Fold in bananas.  Scoop two tablespoons of the mixture at a time on to parchment lined cookie sheet.  The mixture is not easy to mould, and needs to be firmly pressed together on the sheet with your hands.  They should be a bit larger than your average chocolate chip cookie!
Bake for twenty five minutes or so until golden.  Let them cool on the pan and harden on a cool rack before packing them away.

A fun dinner party is planned for the weekend, and so a full blog post with lots of new wine discoveries is on it's way!

breakfast (and snack) is served.
bon appétit. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wine and Cheese Party

We hosted a wine and cheese this weekend.  Everyone had a task of bringing one cool piece of cheese to throw on the table to nibble on, and one cool bottle of wine to open and share.

Very simple and fun way to spend an evening with friends.  We went down to the local butcher and asked him for a bunch of butcher paper and taped it down to cover our kitchen island.  Everyone was invited to put the cheese on the table, and write beside the cheese what kind you brought.

We chopped a whole bunch of sausage and salamis, put out some crackers, a couple loaves of baguette, and voila.

Here are two special bottles of wine we found and enjoyed.  Both are from Vintages at LCBO and available right now.

This is in the LCBO right now for $17.95. I've never seen a Grand Cru Pinot Gris at such a low price. I don't think I've seen a Grand Cru anything priced so low for that matter. Wow does it ever deliver. The wine is certainly "off dry", which means it's basically sweet. 38 grams of sugar / litre to be exact. However, its packed with powerful juicy acidity which balances everything out. It's full and rich with peach, apricots, baking spices and flowers. It has a great long finish and pairs oh so well with charcuterie and cheeses. You can drink this now, or put it in your cellar for up to 8 years. I'm betting it will not be on the shelf for long...

This red just came out in Vintages this past weekend and will not last long priced at $19.95. Such great value for "Vacqueyras" which is a Cru Village in Frances Southern Rhone Valley known as the Cotes du Rhone.  Down there they make big (balanced) fruity blends of Grenache and Syrah grapes. This red has range and focus. You could pair it with so many things or with nothing at all. That's why it was a great pick for this kind of party. It has a lovely underlying graphite edge to it's suave plum sauce, fig and blackberry fruit nose. Take a big sip and you get crazy flavours of black tea, cassis and tobacco, which keeps a nice velvety feel it all the way to the finish. Buy this wine by the case, as it will only get better in the cellar. I poured it into a decanter for 3 hours before serving it, as you should do with younger wines of this pedigree. 

wine and cheese and salami is served.
bon appétit.