Archives for August 2009

Tasting Summer in Bittman’s Bake

Being the lazy pie maker that I am, I really wanted to love Mark Bittman’s Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake; however it just wasn’t all that it was talked up to be. He can call it what he likes, but it was only reminiscent of pie and I found myself wishing I had turned those gorgeous cherries and peaches into a cobbler with a fluffy cake-like topping.

We still had no problem eating our way through it, however, as the combination of peaches and cherries was irresistible. Seriously summer baked in a dish!

I did like the rustic side of this ‘pie’ and it was a great dessert to make with little helpers, I will say that. You don’t have to worry about stray fingers poking a hole in your pie crust, if fact they can help lay the lattice pieces on top, like so.

Heh, maybe I need to give it a second chance, or maybe next time I’ll try Emily’s classic Stone Fruit Pie. Anyway, this lazy version of pie is easy, pretty quick, and may be just the thing to help you use up those fast-ripening peaches hanging around.

Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake
recipe by Mark Bittman

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces, more for dish
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 pounds peaches, seeded and sliced (about 5 large)
1 cup cherries, stones in or pitted
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Heat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch or similar-size baking dish; set aside. ( I halved the recipe and made a 8 inch round. It was a little sparse, though.)

For pastry:
In a food processor, combine 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, the salt and 1 tablespoon sugar; pulse once or twice. Add butter and turn on machine; process until butter and flour are blended and mixture looks like coarse cornmeal, about 15 to 20 seconds. Slowly add 1/4 cup ice water through feed tube and process until just combined. Form dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate dough for up to a couple of days, or freeze it, tightly wrapped, for up to a couple of weeks.)

For filling:
Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss fruit with remaining flour, 3/4 cup sugar and lemon juice; place in baking dish.

Put dough on a floured board or countertop and sprinkle with more flour. Roll dough into a 12-inch round, adding flour and rotating and turning dough as needed. Cut dough into 3-inch-wide strips, then cut again crosswise into 4-inch-long pieces. Scatter pieces over fruit in an overlapping patchwork pattern.

4. Brush top of dough lightly with water and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Transfer to oven and bake until top is golden brown and juices bubble, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool; serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

The Beef Chronicles: Cumin-Scented Kebabs & Best Broccoli Slaw

For a year now, I’ve been getting the wrong magazine subscription. Wowed by her Christmas cookie issues, I thought I wanted to receive Martha Stewart Living, but my husband knew better and ordered Gourmet as well, both Christmas gifts. For a while they competed for space in my mailbox and for attention on my coffee table, but it wasn’t long before I was completely seduced by the recipes and articles in Gourmet, and read each issue cover to cover before glancing at MSL. It didn’t help that MSL seemed to have less and less food articles and focused more and more on fashion. Sorry, but I just don’t want to read eight pages of summer jacket requirements–I don’t care that much about their versatility or how a good jacket is ‘the ultimate team player’. (April-’09) Kudos to Martha for using her own staff to model the blazers and the like, but unfortunately I won’t be renewing my subscription.

That being said, did you read the August ’09 issue of Gourmet?? Cumin-Scented Beef Kebabs, Garlic-Oregano Grilled Pita, Corn-on-the-Cob with Mint and Feta, Ice Cream Sandwiches with Blueberry Swirl….The mag is chock-full of recipes, each one begging to be made this instant. Everything about the ‘Freewheeling’ feast appealed to me (p.62) and became the inspiration behind a recent casual BBQ in honour of my birthday.

Yes, I cooked for my own birthday. Get over it!
Does NO ONE know me by now? Friends and family were incredulous that I wanted to cook a meal for them and ‘work’ on my birthday. Don’t they know by now that I truly DO love to cook?

Perhaps they didn’t understand my terms:

“An afternoon of distraction-free cooking, with no children underfoot and no clean-up required by me.”

I believe that was what the official contract read.
OK, so there was no such contract, but for the first time ever, I employed a ‘Mother’s Helper’, which is about as close as I’ll ever get to a nanny! My neighbor’s teenage daughter brought the boys to the park, then bathed them and put them down for naps while I zipped around my kitchen in fifth gear. Then I enlisted her to shuck 24 ears of corn and skewer two dozen kebabs, while I freshened up before our guests arrived.

The recipes from Gourmet are so easy to follow and the meal came together with no hitches. If only the weather was so manageable. It poured rain at the beginning of the evening – just as I was out barbecuing some lamb ‘popsicles’ – and thoroughly soaked me. The twenty or so guests took shelter in my kitchen and munched Greek meze while I panicked over how I was going to feed (and fit) everyone in our cozy bungalow. Fortunately the rain tapered off enough to allow us to move outdoors for the meal, and everyone had the luxury of a little elbow room after all.

Our beef stole the spotlight dressed as Cumin-Scented Beef Kebabs, tender chunked sirloin that had been marinated in garlic, coriander, cumin and loads of fresh oregano. The skewers were sandwiched between grilled pita bread that had been bathed in a pungent garlic and oregano infused olive oil and the whole thing dressed with homegrown tomatoes and slathered with Peter’s Tzatziki. Several variations of Greek Salad were the colorful accompaniments, along with my Current Obsession Number 1: Corn-on-the-Cob with Mint & Feta, and Current Obsession Number 2: Broccoli Slaw –the recipe for the slaw is given at the end of the post.

And for dessert…my sister brought a killer Carrot Cake (I do draw the line at making my own cake. Thanks, Miranda!) and our fingers got sticky with baklava from Montreal’s own Patisserie Mahrouse. It felt a bit weird planning a party with no sweets, so a few days before I churned a batch of vanilla ice cream and made my own version of Gourmet’s Ice Cream Sandwiches. Between thin layers of blondies (like a brownie, but no chocolate) I spread vanilla ice cream and swirled in a chunky blueberry jam. Delish! Of course they were consumed before I could get a photo. It didn’t even cross my mind to photograph them–I was too busy eating as many as I could before they melted.

As usual, I was flying around the kitchen with an 18-month-old permanently attached to my leg–so there was no way I could snap as many photos as I would have liked. I handed my camera off to my brother-in-law at some point, and he snapped a few for this post.

This is a great menu for a big gang when you want to BBQ, but perhaps have had your fill of burgers for the season. Do try these recipes; this is food that gives maximum flavour for minimal effort.

Cumin-Scented Beef Kebabs
Recipe courtesy of the lovely Gourmet Magazine

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 pounds sirloin flap steak or flatiron steak, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Equipment: 12 (12-inch) skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes if wooden

Stir together oil, oregano, garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then toss with beef. Marinate, chilled, at least 2 hours.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (high heat for gas); Thread about 4 pieces of beef onto each skewer, leaving small spaces between pieces, then transfer to a tray.
Oil grill rack, then grill beef, covered only if using a gas grill, turning, until browned but still pink inside, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with Garlic-Oregano Grilled Pita (recipe below) and fresh Tzatziki.

Beef can be marinated up to 8 hours
Serves 6

This is my favorite salad this summer and I’ve made it so many times! It’s great to bring to a potluck or just for eating all by your lonesome for a healthy–and crunchy–lunch. You can’t get much easier than four ingredients and a dressing! Don’t forget to toast the almonds–they really make the salad. Oh, and I once used golden raisins instead of dried cranberries and they were fabulous, too.

Broccoli Slaw

Recipe slightly adapted from the original version given to us from that blogging queen of slaw, Smitten Kitchen
Makes about six cups of slaw

2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

Buttermilk Dressing

1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

Trim broccoli and cut it into large chunks. From here, you can either feed it through your food processor’s slicing blade, use a mandoline to cut it into thin slices, or simply hand chop it into smaller pieces. I used both the stem and the flowerets, but you can just use the tops.

Toss the sliced broccoli with the almonds, cranberries and red onion in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients in a smaller one, with a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the broccoli (if you’ve skipped the stems, you might not want it all; I otherwise found this to be the perfect amount) and toss it well.
Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Should keep up to a week in the fridge.

Garlic-Oregano Grilled Pita Bread
Also from Gourmet Magazine August 2009

3 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashes

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano

2 pocketless pita bread rounds

kosher salt to taste

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook garlic, turning once until pale golden. This took a few minutes. Discard garlic and remove skillet from heat, then stir in oregano.
Preheat grill. Oil grill rack. grill pitas, 3 at a time, turning once, until grill marks appear. Remove from grill and brush both sides with garlic-oregano oil. I had a friend stand by, brandishing a silicone brush, to do this part while I continued grilling.
Sprinkle with kosher salt and serve warm. May be cut into wedges.

Got Beef?

The Beef Chronicles: an introduction

TBC: Rib Steak au Buerre Rouge

TBC:T-Bone Goes Camping

Montreal Foodie Tour with Foodie Suz

Blogging has provided me with the opportunity to connect with hundreds of wonderful people and there are so many of you who I would love to get to know better over a cup of coffee! I’ll just have to get to one of those blogging conferences one of these years! Anyway, I recently had the chance to meet a fellow Canadian food blogger who was in Montreal on business: Sue Robbins, or as she is better known, Foodie Suz.

I picked her up at her hotel and whisked her around town to some of my favorite food spots. Sue was courageous to meet up with me, a total stranger, and while she expected a foodie tour, she didn’t know that she was signing on for a white-knuckled drive. I can be, ahem, a rather aggressive driver, not to mention sometimes scatterbrained. Poor Sue!
Anyway, I only blew through one red light (our conversation was so engrossing!) and we survived the whirlwind trip. Here’s a peek of where we got around to…

Illy coffees and chocolate brioche at Olive et Gourmando
Olive et Gourmando, my favorite bakery/cafe
More treats from the Old Montreal bakery

Artfully arranged produce at Jean-Talon Market, our biggest open air market. This stop also included a walk through the one-and-only Hamel cheese shop and a lengthy visit to Olives et Epices, which we later exited laden with exotic spices.

Of course we were working up an appetite so a stop at St-Viateur Bagels was not optional – it was mandatory! I love how this place never closes and the river of bagels is always flowing.
We later popped in to my favorite cupcake shop, Cocoa Locale, but much to my dismay, it was closed, so no Chocolate-Chai Cupcakes for us.

We still needed a chocolate fix, so instead we parked in my old neighbourhood, the Plateau, and walked to Les Chocolats de Chloé. A stunning little artisanal chocolate shop, I died and went to heaven with Chloe’s Illy Espresso chocolate. I would happily accept treats from this one-of-a-kind shop for any occasion–as long as I live!

After drooling over upscale kitchen items at Arthur Quentin, we were in need of something a bit more substantial than chocolate. As Sue had already experienced the famous Schwartz’s Deli on a previous visit, I decided L’Express would be a good option for lunch. The Parisian-like place was in fine form, including a grumpy Maître d’, who huffily told me to remove my water bottle from the table. Or what? You won’t serve me? Man, my days of snobby restaurant life are over. Lighten up!

I think Sue enjoyed her octopus and lentil salad and I was relieved when she also ordered a side of fries, or else my lunch would have looked mightily unhealthy in comparison. I feasted on what just may be the best sandwich in town, the Croque Monsieur from L’Express. Heaven. Think grilled ham and cheese, but such ham! and such cheese! Cooked to perfection and served with an immense jar of pickles maison (pictured above with Foodie Suz), this is the sandwich of my dreams.

I so enjoyed my time with Sue and we were never lacking for conversation. We swapped book titles, recipes and favorite blogs, yakked about our kids and compared travel stories. It was wonderful to meet her.

Thanks for looking me up, Sue, and for putting up with my driving!

PS: Here is Sue’s rundown of our day, including a photo of yours truly on what was a very windy day where the wind was sculpting my hair into something unnatural!

The Beef Chronicles: T-Bone Goes Camping & Laptop Tomato Salad

Curious about the Beef Chronicles? Read the intro to the series here.

They say food tastes better when you are camping. Perhaps it’s the smoke from the open fire, perhaps the fresh air that stimulates the appetite, at any rate I chose T-Bone steaks for our recent camping supper, hoping that perhaps Mother Nature would help inject some excitement into this otherwise boring cut.


Everything about the family-style dinner was absolutely delicious, from the potatoes that were baked in the campfire ashes to the sweet summer corn, but when I think back to that steak, the words ‘best ever’ come to mind.

Earlier in the afternoon, while the gang of us hit the beach, the T-Bone marinated ever so simply in olive oil, cracked black pepper, crushed garlic, and fresh rosemary–all ingredients I ‘happened’ to have on hand on our two-night camping trip. Later it was quickly seared on a portable grill and the result was fork-tender, flavorful steak.

This homegrown beef has got it going on.
This is my favorite marinade for meats of all kinds and it’s approximately:

1/4 cup olive oil
four garlic cloves, a cast iron pan works well for crushing them when you’re camping
generous handful of rosemary (or thyme, oregano, or sage)
plenty of cracked black pepper

Usually I’ll add a squeeze of lemon, especially with poultry, and the herbs can be switched up for whatever suits your fancy. I season the steaks with salt just before grilling.

Cherry tomatoes and green beans, both from my potager, were sautéed up for a colourful side, while this juicy tomato salad was prepared on my lap while sitting around the campfire.

Tools? A bowl and a Swiss Army knife. I had fresh yellow and red tomatoes from my garden, which I carved up and let drop into a bowl to mix in their own juices. Next I cut up half a red onion (in the same way you would carve an apple and eat it slice by slice) and let that fall into the bowl as well. I tore up a generous handful of fresh herbs -oregano, basil and thyme-, drizzled olive oil over everything, and tossed the salad together with salt and pepper. Voilà, summer in a bowl.

After dinner I got to work on the S’mores, cranking them out three at a time to satiate the needs of the little campers. For the record, open faced is the only way to go, or else the cracker/chocolate ratio was way off. I like having a warm log to toast the graham crackers and warm the chocolate, while I brown the marshmallows. Perfection!

Alright, so far the Beef Chronicles have been pretty tame, I’ll be the first to admit; however, it’s been like 35 degrees all week around here and cooking is a chore in that heat. The Beef Bourguignon is just going to have to wait until the cool fall weather.
It’s going to be fabulous paired with my ripening squash.

Hey! Tomorrow is my birthday! We’re celebrating on the weekend, but tomorrow I’m going to go see the much talked about Julie & Julia with my sister. Maybe they’ll cook some beef in the movie and I’ll get inspired!

Previously in The Beef Chronicles: Rib Steak with Buerre Rouge and Corn with Feta-Mint Butter

UtHC Virtual Jam Swap ’09

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Calling all jam enthusiasts!

This fall, Under the High Chair is hosting its very first virtual jam swap and quite possibly the first event of this kind in the blogosphere! Come October, this will be the place to show off your home preserves and showcase how you captured summer in a jar.

Your last name doesn’t have to be Smucker or Smith to contribute to the event; most of us are amateurs in the ancient art of home canning. Don’t be shy! The goal is to inspire and be inspired.

No, we’re not going to actually swap real jars of jam, as in mailing them all over creation. Somehow that just doesn’t seem practical, frugal or even responsible in this day and age. Nope, no real jam, but if you will follow the simple steps to participate, I will provide the platform to bring us together to swap recipes and ideas.
(My husband is urging me to include that should a few of you expressly wish to bless us with a jar of jam here and there over the summer, we certainly won’t turn them down. Ahem, our shipping address can be provided with a simple request.) 😉

Here’s how to participate:

Step 1: Can it. Literally. Make your jam, jelly, fruit butter, marmalade or what ever you are inspired to create. Have fun and pay attention! Do NOT try to Tweet while home canning.

Step 2: Photograph and blog about your preserves. If you don’t have a blog, don’t worry, but do snap a photo to include with your submission. Do this anytime over the summer, but preferably before October 31. Include this post as a link in you blog post and feel free to grab one of our adorable badges designed by Jess Spring to decorate you post or sidebar.

Step 3: Send me an email aimee(dot)c(dot)bourque(at)gmail(dot)com with Jam Swap as the subject line containing the following info:
-your name
-your blog’s name and url
-the name of your jam
-a link to your jam blog post with jam recipe*
-a photo of your jam

Step 4: (optional) Help spread the word! Twitter this event, write about it on your blog or discuss it over afternoon tea with friends. Thank you!

*(Please note that your submission should be for a jam recipe, not just a recipe that includes jam! Thanks.)

That’s it!
The Under the High Chair Jam Swap ’09 roundup will be posted in early November, a more specific date will be confirmed later in the summer. Questions? Comments? Speak up in the comments section below or drop me an email.

I can’t wait to hear everyone’s stories and see the creations from your kitchens.

Good luck and Happy Canning!