Friday, December 2, 2011

GMZ - Philouze Boulanger Pâtissier

If you can find good baguette within your usual shopping perimeter, you're golden. That said, over the years, I've come to discover that "good" baguette is a very personal thing: some like it dense, some like it light; some like a crispy crust, some like a soft one; some like it darker, some like it slightly underdone; some like a neutral flavour, some like it with a more distinct one... I could go on, but you get the idea.

So I can't really tell you about "good" baguette somewhere in the GMZ. All I can do is tell you about what's good baguette for me. Enter Philouze Boulanger Pâtissier, situated at 811 St. René Blvd in Gatineau, between de l'Hôpital Blvd and montée Paiement. The shop is on a weird bit of street; its neighbours are a pool and spa centre on one side, a print shop on the other, and the local RONA is a spitting distance away. BUT DON'T LET THIS FOOL YOU! Philouze, in my humble, bread-gobbling opinion, feels like it could have been plucked from the most idillic little European artisan village you can imagine. 

The baguette is the first element to help create the illusion. For me, it's the best in town, bar none. It's dense, crispy, sweet, baked to a perfect doneness, and, most importantly, it doesn't have the circumference of the baseball bat-sized behemoths you usually find at the grocery store. It's simply delicious. And it goes beautifully with all of the lovely products the store carries such as Québécois and French cheeses, beautiful patés and rillettes from Première Moisson in Montreal, fresh sausages that allow you to venture into the exotic with chorizo and chipolata and, most lipsmacking of all, cured meats including Corsican-style figatelli and cured chorizo from Les Cochons tout ronds, an amazing producer from Iles-de-la-Madeleine (you've GOT to try these - just be patient, they run out fast and it's sometimes a bit of a wait before the next order comes in). 

Philouze made dinner! Figatelli, Petit ménage and St-Morgon cheese.
Philouze also offers ready to eat extravagances such as pop-it-in-the-oven-and-you-have-dinner pot pies, ham and swiss flaky pastries with béchamel, pizza-foccaccia hybrids and more. Of course, they also have a beautiful pastries counter with truly delicious éclairs, religieuses, mousses, and ready-to-go cakes. Try their galette des rois around the feast of the Epiphany in January, or their Saint-Honoré cake anytime; with its rum-infused pastry cream, flaky pastry disks and cream puffs, it's fantastic (just make sure you order ahead for that one). And last but not least, run, don't walk, to get the best croissants I've been able to find on this side of the river or the other. Oh, wait, there's more: Philouze also carries specialities, local and imported, such as teas, madeleines, candies, jams, flavoured syrups and canned goods. Basically, if you've recently been to France or Belgium and you're suffering from Euro-food withdrawal, Philouze has the cure.

Finally, I can't tell you about Philouze without telling you about the staff and the owners. Service is always friendly, courteous, and highly efficient. And if you have a chance to chat with Anne-Marie Philouze - you can't miss her, she's the lovely woman who cheerfully cries "Bonjour" from behind the counter as you walk in - she will very kindly share all kinds of knowledge on how to better enjoy her shop's products (did you know, for instance, that you can stick fresh-baked croissants in the freezer, take them out 30 minutes before breakfast, and they'll still taste fresh-baked? Shocking, I know!) Every time I go to Philouze, I always leave with a big grin on my face, no matter how my day has gone. You can't buy happiness, but this place comes pretty damn close to selling it. I hope you enjoy it!

About GMZ

Friday, November 11, 2011

Soup. A hot-water bottle for your insides.

Soup is making a comeback in my kitchen. I used to be annoyed by it. I didn't like how I couldn't control my intake of food; how I was a prisoner of the tiny portion doled out by every spoonful, never able to take in more at a time without putting the bowl to my mouth and making a complete and disgraceful pig of myself. Eating soup, restrictive spoonful by restrictive spoonful, made me irritable. I wanted FREEDOM!

Sadly, short of filling a turkey baster and squirting my way to satiation, I had to find another way to live with the cutlery conventions of our day. That's when I discovered texture. I'm not talking chunky-vegetable-soup kind of texture here. I'm talking smooth, dense, mouthfeel all the way into tomorrow kind of texture. The kind I only experienced once I started looking for a vegetarian meal-in-a-pot soup solution. The spoon would still deliver the same, annoying portion with every pass... But this time, the texture of its payload would insure that the flavour and experience would endure; keeping my taste buds distracted long enough for the spoon to make its next delivery...

There are two main heroes in the category of texture for me, when it comes to whole-meal-in-a-pot soups: beans and tofu. Of course, 35% cream also fits in this category (for glooorious mushroom soup), but that's just cheating. 35% cream makes EVERYTHING taste good. So next time you set out to make a cream soup, try throwing in a can of white kidney beans or a block of silken tofu before you plunge in your immersion blender. I assure you, you'll be glad you did. 

I made the following soup the other night when it was dark and blustery outside. I was cold, and not really in the mood for making anything fancy. I found the last butternut squash from my garden as well as a few leeks at the back of the fridge, and a can of beans in the larder. Soup it is, I thought. And I was glad. That stuff stuck to my insides like Fiberglass Pink. Mmmm. Insulating.

Butternut squash soup with leeks and white kidney beans

Prep your ingredients:

1 medium-sized butternut squash, roughly chopped into chunks (see picture);
2 leeks, green parts discarded, white parts split lengthwise, thoroughly rinsed (dirt always manages to get in there) and chopped into half moons;
1 medium onion, chopped;
1 can of white kidney beans, drained and rinsed;
4 thyme sprigs, leaves plucked, or 1 tsp of dried thyme (or more, if you like).

Heat a stockpot or a big saucepan over medium heat. Once it's hot, throw in around 2 tbsp of olive oil or, if you're not focused on making this vegan, a matchbox sized piece of butter and just a dab of olive oil (1 tsp) to prevent burning.Throw in the onion and the leeks, and cook, stirring, until translucent.

Throw in the squash, and cook, stirring for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the thyme leaves and bare sprigs. Pour in enough cold water to cover everything, with a half-inch extra over the top of the veggies. I used some cooking water from my freezer that was left over from boiling potatoes and celery root.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the squash is soft.

Remove the thyme sprigs and add the kidney beans.

Whizz the soup into oblivion with an immersion blender or a regular blender. If you use a regular blender, do this part in batches to avoid overspilling and burns.Season with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread, and some sharp and tangy cheese.

I hope you enjoy this soup. I'm getting hungry just looking at the pictures.

See you next post!

Eye candy interlude - last veggies

Last weekend I cleaned up my frost-wilted garden in preparation for winter. I pulled everything out, marked the spot where the rhubarb would be coming out again in the spring, and had a bit too much fun throwing half-frozen cucumbers at Marc while he raked leaves (talk about pre-season snowball fight training - those cukes are smooshy!)

The sun was hitting the garden just right, so I took a few pictures before I took it all down. No recipes here kids. You just have to indulge my amateur attempts at capturing Summer's last wink. 


Thanks for visiting! See you next post.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dairy and onions. Yeah.

Well, Marc's in the bathroom, shaving off his beard for the inaugural day of Movember. At my request, he'll be going for the Magnum P.I. look. I can't wait. Too bad it's getting too cold outside for the cutoff jean short shorts. Sigh.

Anyhoo, while I wait to see my bare-faced mate, I've decided to bring you la tarte à l'oignon - the onion tart : one of the simplest things you can make, if you have the patience to see the caramelization of the onions through to the end. It's one of my favourite things to make when I have a laid back get-together; people are often underwhelmed by its plain brown appearance, but they always raise their eyebrows when they taste their first bite. Hah! I love that. Plain brown food one; dinner guests with little faith, zero.

This recipe is based on a tarte à l'oignon I ate for lunch in Marseilles, at a friend of a friend's house nearly ten year ago. I was too shy to ask for the recipe at the time, so I'd just recreated it from gustatory memory when I got home... It was good, but something always seemed to be missing. Then, I discovered the missing link : cream. How could I not have seen it before?!? I have Laura Calder to thank for that tidbit, bless her shameless, butter loving heart (see the recipe for Caramelized Onion Tarts in her book French Food at Home). The tart went from good to goooooood. And then, I got more raised eyebrows.

Of course, this recipe is still quite delightful sans cream, if you prefer to omit it. That way, you only have to deal with the guilt coming from the evil, evil (read: delicious) pie crust.

Let's get on with this recipe, shall we?

Tarte à l'oignon

What you need to have:
- 1 pie crust, purchased or made yourself. If you're making your own, I recommend a flaky one over a denser, buttery one. Don't pre-bake it.
- 5 to 6 large-ish onions, sliced into thin half moons (slice the onion in half from head to toe, then slice each half crosswise). You need about seven to eight cups of sliced onion in total. If you have a bit more or a bit less, it's not the end of the world.
- some thyme, preferably fresh, but dried will do. 2 tbsp fresh leaves, or 1 tbsp dried.
- a splash of brandy or white wine
- a good splash of balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream (35%). Again, omit this if you want.
- salt and pepper

What you need to do:
- throw a good 2 tbsp of butter into a heated pan (sorry - you need lots of butter for this), and add a bit of olive oil to prevent the butter from burning (a tsp should do);
- once the butter's bubbling, throw in the onions, lower the heat to medium-low and wait for them to caramelize, stirring regularly so they don't burn. This may take time. Up to 30 minutes. It's not that bad! Read a book while you stir! Or empty the dishwasher! Or sort your laundry! Whatever! Sheesh!
- when the onions are soft and brownish, throw in a splash (1/8 cup) of Brandy or white wine; let it simmer and reduce until it's gone;
- throw in a splash of balsamic vinegar. Start with about 1/8 cup, stir it all around and taste the onions. You need to taste the balsamic tanginess - it helps counteract the sweetness of the onions. Add a bit more if you don't feel the tang;
- add about 1/2 cup of heavy cream and stir it around, letting it simmer softly for a minute or two, just to thicken a bit;
- take everything off the heat, throw in the thyme, and season with salt and pepper;
- slide everything into the pie crust and bake for the time recommended on the package / in your crust recipe;
- let the tart cool a bit and serve warm or at room temperature.

Voilà! And here's an optional step. I usually throw a handful of pitted black olives (like Kalamata) on top of the tart, just before baking. I find their brininess the perfect companion to the onions' sweetness. Although I didn't try it in the recipe above, the olives would have been just as stellar with the richness of the cream, too. Give it a try, you won't regret it, I'm sure. And if you do, bah. Just pick off the olives. No biggie.

Oh gawd! Marc just walked in! Cue the Magnum theme song!

Aaaand I'm out. Enjoy the tart!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall's here - fire up the oven

Pretty, huh? Don't be fooled! It was ice-cold when
I snapped this picture! The dappled sunlight was a trap!

Winter's definitely on its way. First, the leaves show up on my back deck, and now, I'm rotting in bed with some sort of evil cold that makes my lungs burn. Ugh. It's only going to get worse from now on. The wind, the periods of snow-tease when the stuff falls and then melts away in some sort of sick game of "I'm here! No I'm not! Yes I am!" and, worst of all, the dry, dry weather that makes your hands so dry they crack and bleed. Can you tell I don't like winter? My plans for a retirement in the tropics are already well underway. Too bad I have some 30 years to go before I can kiss winter goodbye forever. Grumble grumble.

I must say there is one thing that I'm thankful for in the fall, and that's the cooler weather that calls for warm, oven baked foods. So I shamelessly made a lasagne the other day. A delicious, meat-free, husband-foolin' lasagne. It was a combination larder-garden effort: I had half a box of no-boil lasagne noodles in the larder, my tomato sauce from a few posts ago, red peppers that are still slowly ripening in the garden (!) and the equally tenacious basil. I rounded up a few more staples from the fridge and away I went.

Sprouted lentil, red pepper and goat cheese lasagne with basil

I feel that these are more assembly instructions than a recipe, but whatevs. In an 8x11" lasagne pan, layer the following ingredients in the order listed:

- a thin coat of tomato sauce
- the first layer of noodles (no pre-cook or cooked - your choice)
- a generous coat of tomato sauce
- approx. 1 cup of sprouted lentils (I get mine from La Défriche through the MSRO. Cooked duPuy lentils would probably be just as good. Not sure if the canned ones would get too mooshy. Meh. It would probably still taste just fine.)
- a generous amount of fresh goat cheese, crumbled. Judging by the picture, I'd say about 3/4 cup.

- the second layer of noodles
- a generous coat of tomato sauce
- 1 large sweet red pepper, sliced 1/4"
- 2 small zucchini, cut in 1/2" pieces
- as much fresh basil as you like

- the third layer of noodles
- a generous coat of tomato sauce
- an obscene amount of freshly grated Parmesan
- freshly ground pepper

Aaaaaand bake according to the instructions on the package of lasagne noodles. When the lasagne is done, remove it from the oven, let it cool while fighting off your ravenous husband, and serve with a lovely salad.

Delicious, I tell you. And, as usual, when there's enough cheese involved, the meat-eaters don't even notice there's "something" missing. Mwahahahaha! Next time, though, I'll use a bit more sauce. My no pre-cook noodles were rather greedy for moisture.

Well, I'm spent. I'm going back to bed for another 20 hour nap. Stupid cold. TTYL.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What oblivious passion tastes like.

Take...a look... at THIS.

I must get better lighting in my kitchen...

THIS, my friends, is quite possibly the best pizza I've ever eaten, let alone made. It started with a chicken breast. One, measly little chicken breast that I picked up at the grocery store because Metro was having a promo... I took it home, slapped it on the counter and asked: "how can you feed two adults for dinner, little antibiotic-free, free-range chicken breast?" And the pizza was born.

I was so excited about this pizza that I didn't see the time go by. I went against my farniente rule of thumb. If you count the hour it took for the pizza dough to rise, this sucker had a gestation period of 2 hours. But I didn't care, nor did I notice. I loved every second of it. I was in the zone. The butternut zone. The butternut from my garden zone. The butternut that survived the frost zo.. Okay. That's enough. The joke's run itself out.

So, as I happily tinkered away in the kitchen, and Marc slowly died of hunger on the couch as he watched the Habs' season opener against the Leafs (not sure if it was the hunger or the frustration that caused him to eat one of my throw pillows), I came up with the following deliciousness. 

Thyme-scented butternut and mushroom pizza with pan-seared chicken and basil pesto

I like Tyler Florence's recipe for home made pizza dough (using all-purpose flour is fine - don't run out and get the 00 flour), but feel free to use whatever pizza dough you want.

Seriously... Look at this beautiful crust. Look!
Pizza toppings
Please note that most of these things can be prepared in advance, leaving only the assembly to be done before serving. Not bad, huh?

1. Pesto: in your food processor, whizz two large handfuls of fresh basil leaves, a large garlic clove, three matchbook-sized pieces of parmesan and enough olive oil to make a loose paste. Season with salt and set aside.

2. Mushrooms: roughly chop any mushrooms of your choice and sauté in butter. When cooked, season with salt and pepper, take off the heat and set aside.

3. Chicken: season a chicken breast on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook in a frying pan over medium-low heat until done. Take off the heat, let rest for five minutes, then cut into half-inch cubes. Set aside.

4. Butternut squash: cut about half a butternut into half-inch cubes (roughly two to three cups), and roughly chop one medium-large yellow or white onion. Bring a frying pan to medium heat, throw in a good nub of butter and half a teaspoon of olive oil (to prevent the butter from burning), and when the pan is good and hot, throw in the onion. When it starts to turn translucent, throw in the chopped butternut and toss it around. When the squash is half-cooked, throw in a splash of white wine and let it evaporate completely. Add the leaves from a good handful of thyme stalks (approx. 10-15), cook until the butternut is soft but still toothsome, season with salt and pepper and set aside, off the heat.

Roll out your dough and cover it with a thin coat of olive oil (I usually just put about a teaspoon in the palm of my hand and apply it to the dough like suntan lotion - awwww yeah!)

Spread the pesto onto the dough next. Then the butternut squash and onions. Then the chicken, and finally, the mushrooms. Top everything with a good amount of grated fresh parmesan and bake at 475F for about 12 to 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Once it's out of the oven, drizzle the pizza with a fine thread of olive oil before serving.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Papillote, je t'aime

Marc's working late tonight. I'm by myself, but that's no reason to settle for a martini with toast and peanut butter. As far as I'm concerned, if I've got a half-full bottle of leftover rosé, a minimally stocked larder, and some jazz on Espace Musique with the mesmorizing Stanley Péan, I'm set for a good time. So after rooting through the fridge and finding a few viable veggies, I grab the piece of cod that I'd remembered to pull from the freezer before heading out to the office, and I set to work on my fish en papillotte.

I love this technique. It's so simple, it's nearly equivalent to pouring yourself a bowl of cereal for dinner, but oh, is it ever so much more satisfying. Cooking fish en papillote basically means that you're cooking it in a parchment pocket... It's a recipe that has only two rules: 1) cut all of your vegetables thinly enough that they can cook in the same time as the fish (approx. 10 minutes for a 1/2 inch thick piece), and 2) only use fresh ingredients for the best flavour - there's nowhere to hide when you're cooking with paper.

Today, I've found half of a tiny red cabbage, a carrot and some baby spinach in my fridge, so that's what's going into the papillote, along with paper-thin half-moon slices of onion. But honestly, if it's a vegetable and you can slice it thin, it's good for the papillote. Potatoes, asparagus, zucchini, beet, baby bok choy, celery, sprouts, fresh or dried herbs, lemon slices, la la laaaaaaaaa! Anything! Just slice up enough veggies to make one dinner plate-full per pocket. If you're eating alone (and there's nothing wrong with that!), then you're probably okay with 3/4 cup of cabbage, one potato, one carrot, one hefty handful of baby spinach and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of thinly sliced onion. You get the picture, right?

The method is simple enough. Cut a large piece of parchment paper and fold it in half (I like to play it safe and start with a piece of parchment roughly 50 cm long). Then, remember your scissor skills from kindergarten, and cut the paper so you get a heart shape when you unfold it (see the picture at the top of this post). On one half of the parchment heart, lay down the tougher vegetables and the onions. I find that when they're on the bottom the stack, the juices from the fish and other veggies help them steam a bit more intensely (this is my own thinking - this may not actually be what happens. I wouldn't know. My papillote-cam is still on backorder.)

Once your base of tougher vegetables and onions has been laid down, go ahead and place a little nub of butter there to add a bit of flavour. If you want to keep this super virtuous, skip the butter. Season this layer with salt and pepper and then lay the fish on top. Season the fish, place another nub of butter on top of the fish and then top it with the rest of the veggies (I shred the carrots with a box grater to keep them thin). At this point, if you haven't used butter, give the whole stack a good splash of olive oil.

Close up the papillote by folding the paper heart in half. Starting at the bottom end of the heart, crimp the edges by folding them over and over until you get to the top end of the heart. The goal is to fold the edges tightly enough so steam doesn't escape. I know this can seem scary, but just wing it. I've been known to weigh the pocket down with muffin tins to keep it sealed as it bakes. There is no shame when it comes to cooking in paper. If you want, you can also youtube this technique for pointers.

Once you're done folding, scootch the papillote onto a baking sheet, bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 10 minutes (for a piece of fish about 1/2 inch thick) and poof! You're done. Serve with a quick starch like couscous if you haven't included potatoes in the papillote. And there you go! Enjoy! I did.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

My ample larder, part deux

It's friggin' freezing today! It's too cold to putter around outside, looking for remains of food in my garden (I see you, surviving purple bean!). So I'm blogging instead.

Ah, Second-larder-also-known-as-my-fridge, how I love thee. With your gleaming (albeit fingerprint riddled) steel doors, you are like a vault that keeps my most treasured possessions safe (note to potential thiefs - I'm talking about FOOD here. There are no diamonds or wads of Bordens in my icebox!) Fridgie, you indulge my every whim; you keep that fourteen pound Christmas ham with as much care and tenderness as you do my fluffy Boston lettuce. You take in my latest stinky cheese discovery with the grace of a perfect hostess, and you never, ever rebuke me for spilling yogurt, pickle juice, or half-flat San Pellegrino on your gleaming shelves. I love you, Fridgie. Let's stay together forever. Or until the warranty no longer covers repairs to your compressor.

There it is. Our fridge. In case you're wondering, that brown
ribbon is to help Marc and I remember to empty the
dehumidifier. Hey man, whatever works, right?

Yes, my fridge is always there to keep the flavours-of-the-moment safe. But like a true friend, it is also my dependable arsenal no matter how far I am from grocery day, or how far we are from the next paycheck (gulp!) When used in combination with my dry-goods larder, the skeleton crew of staples in my fridge continually amazes with its capacity to crank out satisfying meals with ease and versatility. Let's get down to details, shall we?

Can you tell I'm holding the door open with my right foot?
Ah, the behind-the-scenes drama... Why do I betray the glamour?!

First, sauces and condiments : aside from the mayo, these usually keep for a very long time, which allows you to accumulate a good collection of flavour inspiration. Seriously, sometimes, when I don't know what to make, I stand in front of my open fridge door, pick a jar and run with it. Figuratively speaking, of course - not as in "There goes that wierd neighbour-lady, sprinting down the street with a bottle of fish sauce again... That's it. Call the cops!"

Here's a quick overview of what I try to always have on hand.
  • Mustards: yes, they get a category all of their own. I always have Costco-sized jars of Dijon and grainy mustard, along with an eternally-keeping squeeze bottle of yellow mustard (a must for enjoying an italian-sausage dog. Please don't judge me.) I also have a nice collection of obsessively purchased Kozlik's and Mrs. McGarrigle's, but those aren't essential. Nevertheless, if you're going to be stranded on a desert island, why sleep in the sand if you floated in on a crate filled with duvet pillows and comforters? Even more importantly, does that analogy even make sense? Anyhoo, mustards are useful for making vinaigrettes, for adding to sauces (check out the one I made for the hanger steak), for sandwiches and for dips (try whisking together a generous tablespoon of Dijon with some olive oil until loose dipping consistency is reached, add some super-finely sliced shallot or onion and some finely chopped parlsey, season with salt and voilà! a suprising dip for blanched green beans, asparagus or snap peas). 
  • Stir-fry basics: these become very handy when you need to get rid of some veggies before they start going limp. I find that with the following, I can whip up a satisfying stir-fry anytime: soy sauce (fermented, like Kikkoman), black bean sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce and oyster sauce. You can use the black bean, hoisin and oyster sauce just before taking the stir-fry off the heat, just to give it a nice flavourful sauciness (use one, two or all three sauces - crazy!) The fish sauce is for making thai-inspired stir-fries, dipping sauces, or just to give steamed vegetables a lovely je-ne-sais-quoi (use sparingly!) The soy sauce... I don't think you need instructions for that, do you? Use anywhere. ANYwhere. And last but not least, tamarind paste. You can't kill that stuff, and it's magical. Try this larder-approved Nigella Lawson recipe for Keralan Fish Curry, with your smartly stowed frozen fish!
  • The rest: mayo, fig jam (for vinaigrettes and warm sauces - throw a bit in with the Dijon cream sauce and enjoy the compliments), leftover wine (for braising) and curry pastes.
Although they don't keep as long as French's mustard, there are also some fresh and preserved foods that can be at the ready in your fridge / freezer. You just have to stay on top of their best-before dates, bacteria-have-won-the-battle deadlines and rot-factors. Here they are:
  • The fresh: you can buy them in the produce aisle, but they have fantastic staying power. They're the kind of food you'll find at the back of the fridge four weeks after buying it, and you'll exclaim: well I'll be damned! It's still good!
    • Cabbage: red and green for braises or coleslaw. Try Jamie Oliver's red cabbage braised in balsamic, or Laura Calder's super easy butter braised Savoy cabbage (I've converted many a cabbage hater with this one - perfect and superfast for when company drops by unexpectedly).
    • Organic baby spinach: for salads, pestos, omelets, frittata, chickpea galette, fish en papillote, or just for sautéeing in butter with a dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mmmmmmmmm.
    • Root vegetables and squash: the indestructables. Carrots, parsnip, rutabaga, butternut, acorn. Roast them, boil them, whizz them up in a cream soup, shred them for a salad, drown them in a cheese sauce or mash them and give them a quick broil with a crust of breadcrumbs and parmesan.
    • Ginger: for stir fries, vinaigrettes, baking, flavouring (ex: soups and purées) and for steeping in hot water on those I-feel-gross days.
    • Apples, oranges, pears, lemons and limes: for eating as-is, for adding to savoury dishes and desserts, salads, or for flavouring sauces and vinaigrettes. And zest! Never underestimate the power of the zest.
  • The preserved: I think I've talked enough about my cornichons to hint at how much I depend on my pickles and other preserved foods. For serving to guests while I prepare dinner, or for garnishing drinks, they're always there to save the day when time doesn't allow for a stop at the grocery store AND cleaning the bathroom (choose wisely...) Usually, pickled onions (I've discovered cipollini in balsamic vinegar *slobber*), Maille's French cornichons and some Kalamata olives keep me confident that things will be okay. Add some maraschino cherries and pimiento olives for cocktails, and you're all set. Serve with those chips and pretzels from the dry-goods larder.
  • The dairy: plain full-fat yogourt and eggs (besides the obvious milk and soy milk.) The yogurt can be used for dips, dressings (ranch, anyone?) and sauces (it keeps longer than 35% cream, is a bit more heart-healthy and just as tasty). The eggs, well, there's a saying that the folds in a chef's hat represent all the ways an egg can be prepared, so I'll not endeavour to list their uses here. Mmmmm. Eggs. 
  • The frozen: always ready to go, the foods in your freezer are your secret weapon. I try to keep a good stock of frozen veggies like broccoli florets and corn nibblets, frozen fresh legumes when I can find them, frozen blueberries for muffins, breakfast and impromptu desserts, fish (it defrosts in a day, if you can remember to put it in the fridge before leaving for work), meats, spare bread loaves, chicken stock and vegetable cooking water (don't throw it out!). I also freeze kaffir lime leaves when I can find them. And finally, Marc's favourite "seasoning" (I never use enough to call it a "food"), bacon. I freeze it in packages of four or five rashers, which is enough to chop up into the perfect amount of lardons for stews or sauces, or for frying up as a garnish for salads.

Hi Kaffir lime leaves! Hi Cod Fillets! Hi rhubarb from my garden!
Ha ha! There's Vodka, trying to get into the picture! What a ham!

There we go! I think that just about covers the wonderful world of my icebox staples. Sorry for the long post. Stay tuned for upcoming posts, where I'll point out when a dish is mainly a larder-based concoction. Just look for the label "From the larder!"

Bonne fin de semaine!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Garden cleanup

Well, the beans have shrivelled up, the cucumbers are no longer growing, and the melons, I don't even want to talk about. It's the end of the summer, so it's time to clean out the garden. I pulled out all of the beets, left a few carrots in just for the hell of it, harvested all of the remaining rhubarb and picked every last tomato. 

Mrs. Bott's Italian tomatoes. Pretty.
The rhubarb was easy to deal with - I just chopped it up and stuck it in the freezer for whenever I'd need a little hit of summer in the dead of winter. But the truckload of tomatoes (I had more in the fridge - that photo is about the third of it) could only be dealt with in one way - tomato sauce, and lots of it. 

I started off by chopping up the tomatoes which consisted of Kenosha and Mrs Bott's Italian. I probably ended up with a good ten cups of them. Oooof.

I then chopped up the pancetta into little lardons (forgot to take a picture - sorry) and finely chopped two smallish onions. I then threw the onions with a bit of olive oil into my heated, beloved Staub cast iron dutch oven (hee!), and cooked them until they were translucent. 

Then came the tomatoes and the long, long wait. The secret to this sauce's tastiness is in the tomato-ey concentration of flavour - one that can only be achieved by patient simmering to eliminate water. Note to self: never start this tomato sauce at 7pm on a weeknight.

I lost patience halfway. Bedtime was fast approaching, so I did something that ended up being brilliant: I took the immersion blender and puréed the softened tomatoes to smithereens! The simmering sped up considerably and I had a thick, rich tomato sauce in no time. It was at this point that I quickly rendered the pancetta in a separate frying pan (omit this if you want to keep this sauce vegetarian - obviously) and threw it into the sauce along with all of the delicious brown bits from the pan. I did this at the end in order to preserve some of the flavour in the meat - had I added it to the sauce from the beginning, they would have only been rubbery pieces of flavourless nothing by the end. Ew.

Finally, and this is my brother-in-law Jean-Marie's trick for a fresh-tasting sauce, I added a crapload (yes, it's a technical term!) of roughly sliced and chopped garlic, I let it simmer in the sauce until it was cooked through and then took the whole pot off the heat. Adding the garlic at the end instead of frying it up at the beginning creates a whole new flavour experience - you have to try it. Anyhoo, once the garlic was cooked, the sauce was done! When I'd be set to serve it, I would just reheat it in a pot with a handful of fresh basil for a fresh-tasting, fragrant hit of deliciousness.

Of course, by the end of this process, it was waaay past my bedtime, but it was still too soon to put the sauce in the fridge. One should never put super-hot things in the fridge; it makes the temperature inside skyrocket, and then bacteria reproduce faster than they would to Barry White's greatest hits. Ew. So here's a trick I learned in cooking school for cooling off sauces and soups, lickety-split: fill your sink with cold water, put the sauce-filled pot in there (careful the water doesn't spill in!) and then keep cramming ice cubes all around it to keep the water freezing-cold. Keep stirring the sauce while replacing the melted ice, and your sauce will be cool in about five minutes.

So to recap, here's the how-to for the sauce:

- roughly chop your tomatoes (let's say 5 cups of chopped tomato);
- finely chop 1 medium onion;
- over medium heat, sweat the onion in a bit of olive oil;
- throw in the tomatoes and cook, uncovered, until soft;
- purée with an immersion blender and continue simmering until thick and no longer watery;
- chop approx. 4 slices of pancetta, pan-fry to render a bit of the fat and throw everything into the sauce, taking care to scrape out every last little brown bit;
- add 3 big cloves of roughly chopped garlic to the sauce, and simmer until soft;
- add a teaspoon of sugar or more to cut the acidity, if necessary, and season with salt and pepper if you wish (I didn't);
- just before serving, throw in a big handful of fresh basil and simmer until well-wilted but still fragrant;
- ta-daaa! Done.
- serve on pasta, on pizza or in a bowl with some baguette for dipping while watching Spaceballs for the 56th time.

That's all for now, folks. À la prochaine!

Luxurious melon fail

I'm a little miffed that the weather's so beautiful these days... Did we really need to have that little mini two-night cold snap that brought on those dreadful frost warnings? I still had such high hopes for my luxurious melons that, despite my amateur planting skills, were actually doing well! The heat we've had over the weekend, and the warmth predicted for this upcoming week would have been the perfect finishing temperature for my little garden protégés. Alas, the frost came, and I made the executive decision to pick the biggest of the melons to see if there was any hope of me witnessing the luxuriousness promised by the seed package back in May...

Sadly, it was all melon but in taste... The texture was beautiful and the smell was a promise of what a few more days of warmth would bring. But it barely tasted of anything. Waaaaaah! I don't remember why I thought it important to leave the rind from the slice I sampled in the photo. Perhaps out of bitterness for what may have been. Stupid unpredictable nature. I'm a tryin' again next year!!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My ample larder, part 1

Sorry for my tardiness in posting. I have no excuse. I'm a bad, bad blogger. Please accept the following post as a token of my affection to you, my sweet, sweet and gentle reader. 

The larder... From the old French lardier. It means a place where you keep your lard. Or something along those lines... My grandmother used to say larder. It's the only reason I use the word. Surely pantry or store cupboard would be more poetic, but I like larder. Laugh if you will. Plenty have already. Larder.

So here's the deal. I hate getting caught defenceless. If someone arrives at our house on short notice, whether it be for dinner or an afternoon visit, I need my artillery to blow their taste buds away (or at least distract them). If I were to have nothing to serve them, not even a measly Kalamata, I'd die of shame. I don't know why this is so important - it just is. I think it has to do with the fact that when I'm happy, I eat. And when I have visitors, I'm happy. So if I don't serve food, it's like telling people I'm not happy to see them... Ooo. That's heavy. I think I just learned something about myself just now. Cool.

Anyhoo, back to the larder. The larder is a wonderful, magical place - a cave of wonders if you will - where certain types of foodstuffs are at the ready at all times to insure readiness to feed and entertain. When paired with the staples that are always in my fridge and freezer, these food items make me feel like the MacGyver of the kitchen - only with better hair. So the following post is an ode to my larder, if you will. An hommage to the foods that stand on guard for me (and the people I feed).

Arrgh! I forgot about the bendy shelves! Please ignore that aesthetically disturbing
feature of my larder. Also, please ignore the Skippy peanut butter. I'm still working on
converting Marc to the sugar-free non-crap kind. It ain't easy.

First, the protein. It's so easy to have non-perishable protein on hand. Here's a run through of the main ones I usually have lying around:

  • DuPuy lentils: they're just plain fabulous. They're meaty and fragrant and have a beautiful mouthfeel. They remain firm when they're cooked, so they're actually still appealing when they come out of the pot. You can serve them cool tossed with fresh herbs, a green stringy thing like beans or asparagus, tomatoes, baby spinach and a vinaigrette. Or you can serve them hot with some sautéed onions and Marc's favourite "seasoning", bacon (you only need three or four slices, cooked and crumbled), with maybe a side salad and some baguette. Smoked pork and lentils. It's like the perfect marriage of French Canadian and European French. Can you hear the angels signing?
  • Quinoa: good as a side dish for fish from the freezer or, again, in a salad, like my roasted zucchini and quinoa salad. For a fast and heathy fish recipe, check out Martha Stewart's technique for cooking it en papillote. Normally, I just stick the fish and whatever random veggies I have lying around the fridge (thinly sliced so they cook quickly) in the little cooking pocket. Try thinly sliced potatoes, onion, chives, red pepper, grated carrot and baby spinach. Don't forget the salt and pepper. 
  • Canned beans: most beans can be thrown into salads (with or without lettuce) or made into patties or stews, while chickpeas can also be roasted for snacks, or be transformed into delicious, silky hummos. And you already know about the virtues of chickpea flour!
  • Canned fish: Jamie Oliver has a fantastic recipe for pasta with tuna and tomato sauce. It's from his Cook with Jamie book. I highly recommend trying it. Canned tuna can also easily be added into salads, such as my no-brainer macaroni salad (one of Marc's all-time favourites... Really?!?):  Mix together cooked and cooled macaroni, a can of tuna, finely chopped red onion, fresh chopped or dried mint for seasoning, tomato, celery, a generous glug of olive oil and juice of a lemon, salt and pepper.
  • Nuts: I keep most of these in the fridge, but I'm mentioning them here. Usually, I have a Costco bag of almonds and also another type of nut which I like to alternate between walnuts, pecans and pine nuts. I use nuts in salads and in pilafs, but they're also very helpful when I'm baking and, especially, when I make an out-of-the-blue pesto. Like in the early summer when my beet greens were still young and fresh: using my food processor, I whizzed around beet greens, parmesan, lemon zest and juice, garlic and some almonds. Throw some hot pasta on that, honey. Woo. Nuts are also lovely when entertaining. Toast a few pecans, coat them with honey and other tastiness, serve with cocktails and you have friends for life. Same goes for your run-of-the-mill dry roasted peanuts. Pop the top, serve with pickles, olives and some pretzels and you have a party!
Second, the carbs. Mmmmm. Carbs. 
  • Couscous: good for (duh) salads, side dishes (add some chopped dried apricots, some chopped mint and a few toasted pine nuts to the cooked couscous) or an awesome vehicle for leftover tomato sauce (again, as a side dish, perhaps?)
  • Bulghour: yadda yadda salads, yadda yadda side dish, yadda yadda to thicken vegetarian stews (this is Sparklypear's discovery - brilliant!) 
  • Pasta: no need to elaborate here. Watch the calorie factor, if that's a concern.
  • Rice: all types. Brown, Basmati, Arborio. For making salads, pilafs, stir fries and calorie-bomb / emotionally therapeutic risotto. 
  • Vermicelli and asian noodles: for spring rolls, pho (pronounced fuh, I've been told) and stir-fries.
  • Panko breadcrumbs: do I really need to explain the panko? Do I need to explain the need for oxygen?
  • Triscuit. they're like bread that doesn't go bad. You put stuff on 'em. And they're delicious. And they're only three ingredients. Wheat, oil and salt. No crap. Beautiful.
And finally, the rest.
  • Vinegars: I find that with red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar and balsamic, I have all the bases covered well enough. With any of these, a little garlic, a little dijon, a splash of fresh lemon juice and some olive oil, you're in vinaigrette heaven. Anybody who's isn't satisfied with that is just a whiner.
  • Oils: organic olive and canola are in the larder. Toasted hazelnut, toasted walnut and sesame are in the fridge (nut oils spoil quickly - never store them at room temperature).
  • (Addendum) Coconut milk: I just remembered coconut milk while writing the post for Larder- part deux. Crave it, need it. For asian dishes, curries and cakes. 'Nuff said. Just take care you don't overdo it - those bad fats'll git 'ya.
  • Sweeteners: local honey, brown sugar, white sugar and asian rock sugar (Yan Can Cook converted me to that one) are in the larder. Maple syrup from Awazibi in Maniwaki is in the fridge. I use the honey and the maple syrup to sweeten salad dressings (on top of their obvious breakfast applications). The sugars are for baking and coffee. The rock sugar is for asian dishes such as stir-fries.
  • Dried fruit: I keep most of them in the fridge for optimal freshness (dried cherries, apricots and raisins), although I did notice that yellow-bagged lollygagger in the picture (dried plums). I add dried fruit to salads, pilafs, oatmeal in the morning and baked goods. They're also perfect for snacking when combined with a handful of almonds.
  • Plain chips and pretzels: you can't see them in the larder picture because I keep them in a separate cupboard above the fridge, high enough that I have to make the conscious effort to drag a chair over to reach them. Stupid temptation. Chips and pretzels are another non-spoiling crowd pleaser when it's cocktail time. But we're not heathens, here. Serve them with something fancy like cornichons and pickled onions. Puh-lease. 
So there we go! Part one of the greater-larder overview. I hope this information proves useful as the cold weather rears its ugly head and you begin squirrelling food away for winter... Ew. Apologies for using the "W" word. 

Next post: larder, part deux! À plus tard!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hang'er High

[A warning to vegetarians and those with sensitivities, this post includes pictures of raw meat.]

Am I the only person who thinks that messing up a perfectly good ingredient is a heart-sickening crime? Not a premeditated one, mind you, but a crime nonetheless... You know what I'm talking about : when you spend a small fortune on two roasts of local lamb for your father's 60th birthday and you cook the living daylights out of it because you haven't programmed your thermometer properly? Ugh. I still feel sick about that one. Or when you simmer some beautiful organic chicken bones for the perfect stock and at the end of the evening, when the simmering's done, you put the colander in the sink, dump out the stock and bones and realize you forgot to put a bowl under the colander? Yaaaaaaaaargh!

So it's with a bit of dread in my heart that I embarked on a simple yet intimidating venture the other night: the hanger steak. I'd been curious about it for months. It's such a hot cut of meat right now. HOT I tell you! It's all over the foodie magazines. And all over restaurant menus. Coincidentally, it was all over my sister's wedding last week (kudos to Epicuria - great job, and gutsy, considering you had 120 people to feed!) But I digress.

The hanger steak is a tougher cut of meat, coming from the area beneath the ribs on a steer. It hasn't had the pretty, sheltered life of a filet mignon - it's actually been busy working and moving. It's tough. Marlon Brando tough. I was scared. Scared to screw it up. But I carried on. I had to experience the amazing flavour it promised. Like Brando, it was just a question of approaching it the right way - when you do it right, it can be reeeeeeeeal nice.

My daring attempt began with a whole hanger steak purchased through the MSRO at Lochaber's Ferme Brylee, a local producer of grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone-free beef. At approx. $15, I had enough to generously feed four people - cheap! After reading up a bit on the hanger steak online (thank you, New York Times!), I got to work.

The Beast

1. I removed as much of the silver skin and large chunks of fat as I could. The meat is so beautifully marbled that I figured all of the extra fat really wasn't necessary (that was a gamble - it paid off, thank goodness). 
2. As instructed by Suzanne Hamelin's article in the NYT, I carefully butterflied the meat (in the same direction as the meat fibers), to make sure that it was no more than 1/2 inch thick. I'd decided to trim out the big white cartilage thingie from the centre, but chickened out halfway. I ended up with a big piece with the thingie still attached, and a few smaller pieces that I'd cut off from the butterflied ends (cut crosswise from the meat fibres).

4. Before putting these lovely steaks on the heat, I made sure I followed these bits of information provided by Hamelin: 
  • because it's a tougher cut, the hanger steak can't be served rare, nor can it be served well-done. It's medium-rare or nothing for maximum chewability and flavour.
  • to insure that the heat is distributed quickly and evenly through the meat, the steak has to have been resting at room temperature for at least an hour.
  • a cast-iron skillet set on high for searingly hot heat is the best option. Cast-iron insures even heat distribution and can take the higher temperature.
5. So with my hood fan on maximum, my cast-iron hot and my steaks salted and peppered, I threw a splash of canola oil and a knob of butter in the pan (the oil helps to keep the butter from burning), and put on the steaks. Lowering the heat to medium high, I cooked each steak for no more than two minutes per side and promptly removed them from the heat to let them rest in a plate for five minutes, covered with foil (this allows the juices to redistribute through the meat and prevents their loss when you cut into the steak).

Bonus: as a quickie sauce, once the steaks were resting under the foil, I turned the heat down to low and threw a good splash (about 1/4 cup) of white vermouth in the pan (white wine would have been fine too) to help scrape off the tasty bits left behind by the meat. Once all the tasty goodness had been scraped off and the vermouth had had a minute or so to burn off its alcohol, I took the pan off the heat, threw in a generous teaspoon of Dijon mustard, stirred it around, and added about 1/4 cup of 35% cream, plus five or six generous grinds from the pepper mill. I poured the sauce into two little dipping bowls to accompany the steak.

I served the steak with some steamed organic green and yellow beans (splashed with a bit of olive oil instead of butter) and some be-oootiful tiny oyster mushrooms from Le Coprin. There was no way around it for those - they were sautéed in butter.

Et voilà:

I'm very proud to say that the hanger steak turned out beautifully. It was crisp and caramelized on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. And the flavour? Simply delicious; rich and beefy, like a steak should taste. The following picture was taken at great risk - I actually had Marc postpone a bite for the sake of documenting doneness. I nearly lost a finger. I swear.

One last little tip: in order to get maximum tenderness out of every bite, you must - MUST! - slice the steak crosswise from the grain, and in thin slices, to reduce the amount of resistance in the muscle fibres. Think of it as cutting through a bunch of elastic bands; if you slice through them crosswise, they ain't so stretchy now, are they? Hah!

So the great hanger steak gamble was a success. I'm so very glad I stopped being a wuss and gave it a go. It wasn't hard at all, and the beautiful, highly flavourful end product was the perfect reward. We both look forward to having it again soon.

À la prochaine!

GMZ - Marché de solidarité régionale de l'Outaouais

One of the things that I found most intimidating about changing my eating habits to a more local and organic beat was the simple challenge of finding what I needed without having to quadruple the amount of mileage I had to do to get it. What's the point of buying local eggs if I have to drive 45 minutes one-way to get them?

So along came the Marché de solidarité régionale de l'Outaouais, a fantastic concept that was started in Sherbrooke and that has been taken up in the Outaouais. Here's the deal: the MSRO is a common online marketplace where local producers of every sort (veggies, bread, fish, meat, milk, cheese, mushrooms, sprouted legumes and grains, honey, maple syrup, cranberries, wine, etc.) display their wares, and where you can browse and pick and choose what you'd like to buy on a weekly basis. Not everybody's organic, but a lot of them are, and everyone's from the region, so you're eating locally. Basically, every week, you visit the website, check off whatever you'd like in your weekly basket, and either on Thursday or Friday, you drop by the pick-up point (on rue Frontenac in old Hull on Thursdays, or on rue Notre-Dame in old Gatineau on Fridays) and get your goodies! It costs $20 a year to be a member, and they charge a small percentage on your overall bill just so they can keep things running (just FYI, you pay the same kind of charge on the cost of the food you buy at a regular grocery store).

Since Marc and I have been members of the MSRO, we've been enjoying tons of stuff including some fantastic organic veggies, local cheeses, Le Coprin mushrooms (fabulous!), beautiful local maple syrup and, on the occasions where we do eat meat, amazingly flavourful grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef (if you're gonna eat meat...)

So I highly recommend giving it a try. All you've got to lose is twenty bucks and a drive to old Hull (or old Gatineau). Just remember that you're eating locally, so the fruits and veggies do get a bit scarce in the winter months (but the root veggies and potatoes are plentiful!) and the meats are almost always frozen, as the producers can't risk spoilage. 

Finally, I can't say enough about the farmers and producers themselves. Often present at the old Hull pick-up point on Thursdays, they're always happy to discuss their products with you, and may even have some samples for you to try. I find it a great privilege to be able to meet and speak to the person who is directly responsible for the food I'm about to eat. And it's reassuring to know my tummy is in good hands.

I do hope you give it a try. I'm still very happy I did.

About GMZ

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An embarrassment of riches...

The garden's exploded. There's food everywhere. As Marc and I filled our harvest bowls to the brim with green and purple beans, I couldn't help but giggle as I was reminded of that beautiful line from Casablanca that was made oh-so-much more entertaining when recited by Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun: "It's a topsy-turvy world, and maybe the problems of two people don't amount to a hill of beans... But this is OUR hill! And these are OUR beans!!"

*Sniff* Beautiful. So the beans were packaged up for another time, as the harvest also included the following:

Golden nugget, Kenosha, Black Russian, Black from Tula, Ottawa 39

Chantenay, Yellowstone and Cosmic Purple!

Chioggia and Touchstone Gold

The tomatoes were put aside for tasty sandwiches, a cherry tomato and bocconcini salad with basil (an oldie but unbeatable goodie - that's for din dins tomorrow with some nice baguette) and, of course, a ratatouille (as soon as Dad drops off another truckload of courgettes). So what was left? The beautiful, glorious root vegetables. I couldn't help myself; I had to create a tableau...:

Don't you just want to dive in?

Now, I think I've made it abundantly clear that turning on the oven when it's stinking hot outside goes against my deepest convictions. However, I had to make an exception. I just cringed at the thought of boiling all of this stuff for dinner... The time! The dishes! The lost flavour and nutrients! THE HUMANITY! 

So I lazily tossed everything together with olive oil and some leftover cauliflower I had hanging around the fridge, and I set that sugar-packed jewel box of a meal to roast. 


Oh, stop looking so good! You're embarrassing yourselves!

By the way, have you ever tried roasted cauliflower? Sorry for going off on a tangent here, but OMG. It's like eating buttery bits of sweet sweet caramelized and burnt goodness that could only be described as what a strapping young fireman's lips must taste like after a hard day's work of putting out five alarm blazes. Honest. It's mind blowing. But you have to be patient. They have to roast until they're soft enough that you can squish them between your fingers (hypothetically speaking, of course - don't burn yourself).

Woo! Is it getting hot in here? Right. My oven's on. 

Back to veggies. If you'd like to give roasted vegetables a go, I highly recommend it. Here are some  pointers:

1. No matter what the veggie (potatoes included), set your oven to 400 F and stick the baking sheet in there as the oven heats up; this will ensure that the sheet is searingly hot when the veggies hit it, which will help with caramelization (the delicious brown! The delicious brown!)
2. Cut all of your veg at the same thickness, so everything cooks at the same time. Keep into account the density of your veg as well - a cauliflower floret can be cut a lot bulkier than a slice of denser beet.
3. Make sure your veggies are nice and dry before you splash oil on them (you're just adding enough oil to coat them); a quick go with a tea towel usually does the trick. If they're still wet, the heat will be wasted on evaporation rather than caramelization. We don't want that.
4. Don't salt your veggies ahead of time; the salt draws out moisture and may slow or even - heaven forbid - prevent the delicious browning. Wait until they're done and salt them as soon as they come out of the oven, while they're still hot and glistening (like that fireman's lips). Pepper, herbs and/or spices are fine anytime, beginning or end.
5. Once your oven is at 400 F, pull out the pan and throw a good knob of butter in there - it should sizzle and slightly brown when it hits the hot surface. That's when you add your veggies and stick the pan back in the oven.
6. You can flip the veggies halfway through the cooking process, but I'm usually too lazy, so I rarely do. Forty minutes is a good cooking time, but I recommend you start checking for doneness as soon as 25 minutes in, depending on the type of veggie and thickness of the cut.
7. No matter what you're roasting, it's never a bad idea to add a thickly cut onion to the mix. Those are just awesome no matter what dish you're going to serve.

Once your veggies are roasted, you can do a ton of things with them:
- Serve them alongside some nice protein like fish, tofu or meat. 
- Mix them around with a grain like bulgur, millet or couscous, or some quinoa, throw in some herbs, some nuts, and give everything a splash of white wine vinegar and olive oil and - POOF! - you've got yourself a salad.
- Whizz them up with the stock of your choice (veggie, chicken, whatever) using an immersion blender, add some cream or plain yogurt if you're feeling naughty (full fat, please), and you've just made a roasted vegetable cream soup.
- Or stick'em between two slices of baguette or any other type of nice bread, with some goat cheese and some sprouts or microgreens (and maybe a slice of bacon if you're Marc) for an awesome sandwich.

By the time roasting was done, I just sprinkled some goat cheese on these particular veggies and served them as a main course with some lovely rosemary and garlic baguette from Art is In. If it hadn't been dark outside, I would have gone to the garden for an addition of freshly chopped parsley, but that was too much work.

The light was getting a bit low - sorry!

Voilà! See you next post!