Archives for April 2007

Red Wine Braised Beef with Root Vegetables and Parsley

Danny came home the other day with two kilos of beef blade roasts that I think he may have thought were awesomely huge steaks. I took it as a hint that we hadn’t had a serious meat meal in a while and was glad that it was a drizzly, gray day outside and I could have the oven on for about five hours to cook the monstrosities.
I don’t cook red meat that often, but when I do, I like to keep is as simple as possible and braising is my cooking method of choice. It’s so rewarding to throw a bunch of ingredients together in my cheery red Le Crueset, place it in the oven and forget about it for about four hours, only to come back and discover there’s an elegant dinner ready.
This is the first time I have tried to write out a recipe as a braise is something I just tend to feel, rather than measure. I usually throw in whatever vegetables I find in the fridge, a lonely carrot, tired celery, and a wrinkled old turnip. Don’t worry if you don’t have a bottle of wine, either; although it adds a nice complexity, beef or vegetable stock will do just fine. One last thing, don’t feel limited to parsley, as there are plenty of other herbs that would fit the bill. Parsley was just something I had to use up, but thyme, oregano, tarragon, marjoram, rosemary or sage would also be delicious. (if you are changing up the herbs, use only about 2 or 3 sprigs -even less for sage and rosemary-as they are much more potent than the humble parsley.)

Red Wine Braised Beef with Root Vegetables and Parsley
2lb blade roast, whole 1 onion, chopped roughly 4 cups root vegetables, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes, I used turnip, parsnip, carrot, potato, and celery. 4 garlic cloves 3 Tablespoons olive oil 500 ml red wine Small bunch of Italian parsley, tied with kitchen twine Salt and pepper Filtered water 2 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into cubes optional: sauted mushroom of choice

Place blade roast in airtight container. Thinly slice two of the garlic cloves, sprinkle on top and pour 1 cup of wine over. Crack some fresh pepper on it and close lid. Cover and marinade at least four hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 275F. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven or heavy oven-proof pot. Add onions and sauté until lightly colored while you chop the remaining 2 cloves of garlic; add garlic and sauté and other minute. Add the rest of the vegetables and seat for about five minutes on medium heat. Remove from pot and reserve in a bowl. Remove beef from fridge and drain off marinade; do not throw out but reserve for later use. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pot until very hot. Add meat to the pot and sear on both sides and edges until well colored. Add sautéed vegetables to the pot as well as reserved marinade, remaining 1 cup of wine, ½ teaspoon ground pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and bunch of parsley. Add enough filtered water to cover everything and bring to a simmer on the stove top. Cover and place in oven. Braise for about two hours and then check tenderness of vegetables. If soft, remove and reserve. Beef will be hard and there will be lots of liquid. Braise another two hours or so until beef is fork tender. Remove lid for the final half hour of roasting. Remove pot from oven and strain off liquid. In another pot or sauce pan, simmer juices until reduced to about ¼ the liquid. Sauce should be dark and the consistency of heavy cream. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. With sauce on a low simmer, swirl cold butter into it until melted and sauce takes on a nice sheen. Return vegetables and meat to sauce. Meat will fall apart on its own as you stir the dish together. Serve hot with fresh parsley and a nice glass of red!

Le Jolifou

I always feel a touch of pride when I dine at Le Jolifou since the chef/owner, David Ferguson, is a friend of mine and I’ve watched his beautiful restaurant evolve literally from the ground up.
As I was between jobs around the time he was planning to open, I gave him a few months of work as his sous-chef and enjoyed every minute. Some describe his cuisine as French techniques with a Latin twist, but you really have to try it to understand why this place is unlike any other restaurant in town. If you like memorable, bold flavors, totally reasonable prices, and a fun, hip atmosphere, this is a place you need to try out now! I can’t count how many times I have eaten there and it never gets old.

Shrimp Tempura with Avocado and Mango Curry Sauce

I had this toothsome appy and it really hit the spot; then again, I could eat pretty much any combination of mango and avocado! Toss in some jumbo shrimp and I’m sold!

Grilled Calamari with Mojo Sauce

This smoky warm salad is a burst of flavor with the intense citrus, garlic and cumin sauce coating the calamari. Just remembering it makes me hungry again.

Grilled Salmon with Balsamic Reduction, Seasonal Vegetables and Basil Tagliatelle

I’m always a sucker for homemade pasta and I am happy to report Dave’s is stellar.

Veal Chop with Guajillo Chile Sauce

This was Danny’s dish which I didn’t get to taste, but I know he was very happy with it, especially the portion size! Guys and their meat…

Duck Confit, reduction of Sherry vinegar, with Pazole and roasted Parsnips

This is a hugely satisfying dish. The rich duck melts in your mouth and is paired nicely with Dave’s pozole with a fire-roasted salsa chuck full of tomatillos, blackened tomatoes and cilantro.

The menu: Table d’hote or fixed price. So you pay one price for your main dish and an appetizer and dessert are included. Again, really affordable prices.

Lavender Panacotta

I only got to shoot one of the desserts, but we enjoyed lemon tart, chocolate and cranberry bread budding, chocolate tart, and creme brule. Not usually one to steal the show, the lavender panacotta was my dessert of choice for the evening. A smooth, simple and a perfect finale to a decadent meal.

With his laidback style and simple yet bold presentation, Dave makes it all look effortless; I, for one, know it’s not. Too many places around Montreal miss the mark for the combination of affordability and titillating taste to be an easy target.
Fortunately for us, we have Le Jolifou!

Clementine and Cardamom Sorbet

I am happy to report that on Saturday we dined al fresco for the first time this spring! We were graced with glorious, sunny, warm weather all weekend, and while I know you are not looking for a weather report, I had to mention it because it was such a boost to the spirit!
It was also the inspiration for this sorbet I made for dessert.
A different take on the classic lemon sorbet, the spine-tingling sweetness of the clementines made it a complete dessert, while the delicate flavor of cardamom adds a fun dimension. Perfect for a lazy afternoon in the backyard!

Here’s a head’s up for all you ice cream lovers: if you don’t already own an ice cream machine, you may want this to be the summer you buy one! I have decided this is going to be the summer of iced desserts and, trust me, you are going to want to join in the fun. Classic ice creams, sorbets, terrines, water ices, tortes, iced drinks, maybe even a Baked Alaska or two: it’s time to use the machine every week, at least and not just on special occasions. It’s going to be fun!
Tip: Ice cream machines are now much more affordable! You don’t need a $2000 industrious machine for home use. I just use the Cuisinart 1 1/2 Quart and am happy enough with it (for now!) I can certainly recommend it for beginners. We’ll see if it makes it through the busy summer!

Clementine and Cardamom Sorbet

Serves 6
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups fresh squeeze clementine juice (or citrus fruit of your choice)
1 egg white
6 green cardamom pods

Put the sugar and water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. This is what we call a simple syrup, the base for most sorbets.
Crush cardamom pods, remove seeds and add seeds to sugar mixture. Cover and allow mixture to infuse for 10 minutes or so.

Add citrus juice to simple syrup and chill well.
Stain sorbet mixture into ice cream machine and churn until thick.
Whisk egg white with a fork and add to sorbet mixture. Churn another 10 minutes or until firm enough to scoop.
Scoop into chilled glasses and serve or pack sorbet into an airtight container and freeze.

Earth Day 2007

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Native American Proverb

Happy Earth Day everyone! Are you doing your part?? Here are ten ways you can take action right now to start helping the environment. Do it!

Flashback: Okanagan Valley, 2006

When we started our decent along the switchbacks from high in the Cascade Mountains down into the Okanagan Valley, all we knew was that we were headed for a town between two lakes at the heart of British Columbia’s wine country, and to the home of our friends who lived in this place called Pentiction. We weren’t expecting to gape in awe at the scenery, as we drove our rented Montana along a breathtaking wine route that wound around the lake, providing beautiful views of vineyards co-existing along the sloping hills and growing nearly right down to the shimmering, clear waters of Okanagan Lake.
In short, we never expected to fall in love with this bewitching place.

Located about five hours east of Vancouver, the Okanagan Valley stretches over 100 kilometers with Okanagan Lake at it’s center. This is Canada’s warmest region and one of it’s premiere wine appellation, thanks to the many unique micro climates and soil types in the various pockets of the valley. One could say that this area is experiencing a boom as in the past five years the number of wineries has doubled in size bringing to total up to 132. We decided that was enough to keep us happy doing wine tours for an entire summer. Unfortunately we had to settle for considerably less than that during our two day stay.

Our cheery, enthusiastic hosts Cameron and Dana were more that happy to give us the tour around the valley where they have settled and set up their business, Joy Road Catering.
Two of the best chefs I know, we’ve kept in touch over the years since working together a few years ago at Toqué!

After a swim in the lake to cool us down, our friends got on their cell phone and called their contacts to let them know that they were on their way with some food and wine lovers in tow! We were in for a rare treat: a gourmet excursion along the captivating benchland known as Naramata with our own personal guides.

Danny and Noah enjoying the river-fed Okanagan lake with it’s mountain views and sandy beaches.

Although wineries are predominant in the valley, plenty of orchards and produce farms take advantage of the rich terrain. The air is heavy with the scent of ripe apricots and roadside stands showcase the best of what the valley has to offer: peaches, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, and apples. This is fresh fruit at its finest, bursting with flavor and warm from the lazy suns rays.

Our van lurched along a winding driveway alongside a cherry grove and we tumbled out at Claybank Lavender Farm. We walked down a sloping hillside overlooking the lake (everything overlooks the lake here!) and into fields and fields of ripe purple lavender. Absolutely magical.

Dana’s friend Pati runs this second-generation lavender farm and makes her own one-of-a-kind luxurious products for body and home. She was as pleasant as can be and invited us to pick cherries from her trees, which we were hoping she would, and gave me a bundle of fresh lavender that scented my suitcase all the way home.

Fresh cherries are amazing and all, but we were getting hungry and eager to sample some wine. So while Noah succumbed to the warm sun and dozed in his stroller, we did a wine and cheese tasting at Poplar Grove Winery. This establishment produces four different kinds of absolutely stellar cheese that are sold on site and various local markets. Also, from what I have read, many of BC’s fine dining restaurants are featuring Poplar Grove cheese on their menus. Their wines weren’t bad either. Miranda picked up a bottle to bring home to her boyfriend, but to be kind, let’s just say he was M.I.A. when she returned home to Montreal and she drank it herself.
He didn’t deserve it anyway.

View from Poplar Grove Winery

Next up was Elephant Island Orchard Wines, who’s driveway carved through dense orchards scattered with Quebecers busy harvesting the fruit. (OK, maybe there weren’t all from Quebec, but the word is that the majority of fruit pickers in the summer come from Quebec!) Here we found no elephant and no island, but a tantalizing selection of fruit wines: raspberry, apricot, crabapple, black currant, cherry, pear…Just reading the wine list made my mouth water. We sat in their shady garden and sample five or six. We left with a case.
This sun was sitting low in the hills as we dropped in to visit Heidi Noble at Joie Farm Cooking School and Winery.

View of Joie’s outdoor kitchen

Haidi and her partner, Micheal Dinn, seem to lead a pretty idyllic life, at least one that I would covet. Hmm, let me see, own a small winery, a few orchards, a modest cooking school run out of a top of the line outdoor kitchen, and in the winter months, work on a cookbook. It was a pleasure to meet the vibrant Heidi, and we realized we had more than one thing in common: we both held the same position at Toqué, but she was there several years before I. Small world. They showed us around their charming farm and we picked ripe peaches as large as grapefruits from their trees. Look for their cookbook, Menus from an Orchard Table, coming in May. The word is out that both of our friends, Cameron and Dana, are featured in it.

Soon afterward, following a quick stop for coffee’s, we said our goodbyes, thanked our splendid hosts and hit the highway toward Vancouver, where we would catch our flight home. The van was oddly quite as we watched the beauty of the Okanagan Valley fade away as the miles passed under our wheels. Soon the fast food joints started popping up on the sides of the road and we began to see all the usual signs of the approaching sprawl of suburbia.
We had experienced a rare side of Canada’s natural splendor and it was going to be hard to get back to normal everyday life.
We had had a glimpse of a world where a peach tastes so good, it’s the best thing to happen to you all day-and you’re having a great day. A place where people care about their environment, get to know their neighbors, take pride in their land, and live life to it’s fullest.

The fragrance of lavender perfumed our Montana, reminding us of where we had been.
As if I would ever forget.