The Missing Rib

Beer Braised Short Ribs with Ancho Pepper BBQ Sauce

What to do when you have a gang of hungry guys to feed and quiche just won’t do? Go see your butcher, ask for beef short ribs, pick up a 6 pack (or 12 or two-four) of dark beer, come home and slow cook the ribs in the beer and a mélange of other yummies. It will be a hit, guaranteed. That’s what I did the other day and it worked out just fine…except for the sauce…which is why you won’t be getting a recipe…..yet.

I went with an idea I had to make a chunky BBQ sauce with Ancho chilies (see below), a dark spicy beer and some blackened onions and tomatoes, but it ended up WAY too spicy– full of flavor, but too overpoweringly hot for the beef. So I kept adding stuff-can’t remember half of it-and ended up with a deliciously seductive sauce… but which I would be hard pressed to duplicate. Snap! Sorry folks. We sure enjoyed it, but you won’t be able to duplicate it in your own home until I work out the kinks. For one, LESS ancho peppers!
Here I am checking to see if the ribs are fall-of-the-bone tender yet. Don’t be shy to cook these at home using a simple braise method. I know, the word ‘ribs’ conjures up a memory of dry, sticky, chewy bar food, but if you pick cuts that have plenty of fat marbling in the meat and cook them, covered in liquid, for several hours, you will be suprised to how they melt in your mouth. Good thing we like them, because we have 2 quarts of my BBQ sauce left over….

Note: If you are not familiar with ancho peppers, they are dried poblano peppers, moderately hot, and used prolifically in Mexican cuisine. They are essential to make the wonderful Mol



Granola Heaven

“California is like a bowl of granola; full of fruits, nuts, and flakes.” Gallagher

Function: noun
: a mixture typically of rolled oats and various added ingredients (as brown sugar, raisins, coconut, and nuts) that is eaten especially for breakfast or as a snack OR: noun: a Birkenstock wearing, tree-hugging, mushroom picking hippie.

Hip Hip Horray for Granolas!
Somewhere, buried deep inside of me, there still resides a granola; a remnant of a former girl who used to wander the countryside making daisy chains and gathering rosehips for jam. Those were wonderful times, where a lazy day of reading in a tree or knitting wool socks by the fire were not thought twice about. Someday, I’ll tell you more about that girl and her many unique and impressionable food experinces that worked together to inspire her to follow her passion for great food.
I miss her occasionally, but I know she’s still there, waiting for the day when I’ll take her out of the city; but for now she’ll (I’ll) have to be content with making some crunchy granola with lots of seeds and nuts.

This is a quick recipe that I love and doesn’t take any sugar. (Hippies are more into honey, the more natural and unprocessed the better) You can substitute any type of nuts, dried fruit and seeds your heart desires. I generally use up all the scraps in my cupboard.

I almost want to call this ‘Granola Topping’, because it is good enough to sprinkle over a bowl of ice cream, pile onto your morning oatmeal, or -my favorite- mound onto yogourt. Also, it’s better in small portions as it’s quite the dose of fiber, and a whole bowl of this just might rearrange your digestive system in a way that may not be the most comfortable. Danny has valiantly attempted to plow his way through a generous bowl of my granola in the morning and when I come on the scene, he is usually rubbing his jaw and looking at me like “What are you trying to do to me?”. Of course if you eat a wussy bowl of Frosted Flakes every morning, the real deal granola is going to take it’s toll. Ah, men. They don’t make them like they used to.

I have to thank my sister, a true granola (with a cute little granola family), for the recipe.

Haidi’s Granola

5 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts and seeds (like pumpkin, sesame, sunflower or flax. Not like watermellon or papaya. !)
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash of cinnamon
1-2 cups dried fruit

Asemble oats, nuts and seeds together in a bowl. Here I am using coconut, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds.

Combine honey, oil, vanilla and cinnamon in a pot and heat to near boiling.
Pour over oat mixture and stir quickly until well combined.

Pour oats onto a baking sheet and spread over the entire pan. Oats should be no more than 3/4 inch high on the pan. (you may need two pans)
Bake at 325F for about 20-30 minutes. You will need to remove it from the oven halfway through and stir it to ensure even coloring. It should color to a nice golden brown. Cool.

Now add your dried fruit and mix well. Here I have added raisins and chopped apricots. Mmmm.
Store in an airtight container. Keeps well for several weeks.
Enjoy your homemade granola!

A Social Experiment

In America we eat, collectively, with a glum urge for food to fill us. We are ignorant of flavour. We are as a nation taste-blind.” M.F.K. Fisher

There is a new restaurant ‘phenomenon’ on the Montreal food scene called O.Noir that I must comment on and see what you think. This St. Catherine Street restaurant invites you to experience food, drink and conversation like never before-in the DARK. Their website claims that it is “..a sensual dining experience like no other” and that it is all the rage in Europe, Australia, New York and L.A.

Now if you ask Danny, he’s already experienced this at home during the Ice Storm of ’98, but I think they are striving for something a little classier. The general manager claims that when you eat without your sight, your remaining senses are heightened to savour the smell and taste of food. He does have a point, but really, are we ready to go to this length to experience food at a new level? I’m sceptical. As a chef, the visual aspect in enjoying a plate of food is too important to leave out alltogether. I love the moment when the plates arrive at the table and I scan around checking out the dishes, portion size, presentation and garnishes.

Another twist to this whole dining in the dark is that the entire wait staff are blind and a portion (5%) of the proceeds go to associations that serve the blind. A cause to be admired, there is no doubt; however, what would be really amazing would be if the kitchen crew were blind, or at least worked in the dark. Insurance would be brutal!

Before you decide that this would be the perfect place for a blind date, let me alert you to a few things that I might consider before going to see this place (not literally, of course). I mean, it does sound like it could be a lot of fun if you were with the right person, but there a few too many opportunities for a mishap…such as:

  • What if there is a hair in your food? The staff are visually impaired, but no one said anything about follically impaired as well. Hair in the food happens, as much as we would like to pretend it doesn’t.

  • What if you have an allergy to nuts and an absentminded cook tosses some toasted almonds into your salad. Oops. Too bad about that one.

  • What if the young lovers at the table beside you have a little too much to drink, forget where they are, and loose themselves in the moment?

  • What if you are trying a new wine at $60 a bottle and they mess up and bring you a $20 bottle? Would you know the difference?

  • What if the waiter removes your plate without asking, or worse, feel if you are finished. Aye!

I guess it would come down to trust, and here we would find ourselves facing some of the issues blind people encounter every day.
Now this would be a lot more interesting if I had actually eaten at this restaurant and was reporting on my experience, but I just don’t feel like giving them my coin yet. There are still plenty of other Montreal establishments where I can have a ‘sensual’ dining experience, or just a five-star fabulous meal. But just so you can have an idea of what to expect if you go, here is a excerpt from Mr. Slutski’s (!) recent review in the Montreal Mirror:

“We all felt pretty giddy when we were first seated; the novelty really was very entertaining, and there was a lot of fun to be had in trying to explore this weird new space. After being there for over an hour, though, a certain pleasant tranquility set in. And overall, accidents were few, the tally coming to one thumb in a pat of butter; one waterfall of salad that ended up on my pants; one forkful of risotto colliding with a shoulder and, just when we thought we were out of the woods, one broken wineglass. Also, one of my dining companions later revealed that after a spill with a piece of octopus he proceeded to strip off his t-shirt and spend the rest of the meal shirtless, which must be some sort of health violation.”

I’m sure it is. Montreal has a wild reputation and I think I would be a bit nervous wondering what other people were up to…. The whole Slutski review.

I believe you also have to love the element of surprise to visit O.Noir. In scanning their website I notice that they offer a ‘surprise entrée’, and that they have live music every Sunday-a band of blind musicians and a ‘mystery singer’. No kidding? Are we to know anything at all? Something makes me wonder if we’re allowing the wool to be pulled over our eyes.

Feel free to report back to me if you decide to try it out. I get the feeling that someone lost a bet or else is trying to win one with this restaurant and I’ll be curious to see how long it lasts.

Odds and Ends

Quebec Crab-Apples or Pommettes

If you are wondering what to do with all those crab-apples you impulsively bought because they looked so pretty, here’s an idea: make crab-apple liqueur.

Stuff a gallon jar with as many (washed) crab-apples as you can, but leaving an inch or so at the mouth. Pour in 1 cup sugar. Now top it up with your preferred brand of vodka until the apples are covered. Close tightly and place in a dark, cool place for about 3 months (think of is as a nice post-holiday stash), and remember to turn it on it’s top every few weeks to mix it up a little. After about 6 months, strain out the apples (keeping one or two to throw back in to look pretty) and strain through a cheesecloth. Return to the jar and voila! you will have a beautiful clear, rose coloured liqueur with a lovely mild apple flavour. I like to drink it chilled as an aperitif, but it’s also great shaken up in fruit cocktails.

Note: I’ve seen recipes where a lot more sugar is added. Up to four times what I have here. This is entirely up to your discretion.

Noah noshing on some green stuff

Broccoli is one thing that is not ending up under the highchair these days. This little guy loves broccoli and zucchini and when I do a stir-fry for dinner, he’ll clean us out. He sits there and is like “Hand it over, Mama” and then, in a twinkle, it’s in the mouth, chewed up just enough to be able to swallowed with a bit of effort, and he’s asking for more. This lack of attention in the chewing department makes for some pretty interesting posts in my parallel blog: “What’s in Noah’s Diaper?”.
Just kidding, there is no such blog…but I bet Zaak wishes there was.

Noah’s old eating habits are much improved (he hasn’t gagged and vomited in a very long time), but he has developed some alarming new ones which leave my hubby and I scratching our heads and pointing at each other.

“No, YOU. He got it from YOU.”

I am not going to give details, but just let you wait until you have kids and then you can make these startling discoveries on your own.

Shut up, your kids will NOT be perfect!

I’ll stop hugely boring you now-if you are even still reading.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Maple Syrup and Butter

If you’re looking for an easy vegetable to go along with tonight’s dinner, look no further than this pretty and simple dish.

Wash a small acorn squash and slice in two. Be careful, these are one of the hardest winter squashes. Scoop out the seeds and place, cut side down on tin foil. Wrap up each half tightly in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast in 375F oven until it feels soft when you poke it. About 1 ½ hours. While still hot, open up the foil and peel back the skin. It should come off easily and in big pieces. Transfer squash to a plate, sprinkle with sea salt, dot with butter and drizzle with maple syrup. Enjoy!


Birthday Kudos

It seems like a lot of people were born in early November and I would like to wish a Big Fat Happy Birthday to the following friends and family who celebrated this weekend and tomorrow:
Dorothy, Richard, Austin, Elizabeth, Rose, Jeremy, Michelle, Katelyn, Katrina, Katrine, Kelly, and our nextdoor neighbor who had a “Bonne Fete” sign on his door! You all rock!
I’m sorry for the birthday parties we missed, but we were pretty maxed out at three, and Noah will be taking a few days to recover from all the excitement. =)

Find of the month: Zen Asia

Goi cuon or Spring Rolls, with Shrimp, Daikon, Mint, and Cucumber.

Having heard a lot of good things about this nearby Vietnamese restaurant, Danny and I decided to check it out last Friday. I was cautious because ever since I spent 6 weeks backpacking through South East Asia, dining in these types of restaurants usually ends up being a disappointment and dishes that are recreated over here are merely distant relatives to the mother dish.

I didn’t set my hopes too high for Zen Asia, for fear of having them dashed, but I did manage to enjoy myself more than I expected. This is an excellent, ‘happening’ place that I am proud to have here on Montreal’s South Shore. Believe me, while downtown is a cornucopia of fine dining, the pickings are very slim around here!

However there was one flaw in our dining experience: and the restaurant was not responsible…

I should have clued in when I saw the address on the business card, but I didn’t, and as we pulled up in from of Zen Asia, I realized that I had once worked there long ago when it was called ‘Bistro 21”. Those were not good times for me, to put it mildly, as I had often found myself in situations comparable to Tony’s in Kitchen Confidential. As we entered, I had a feeling of déjà vu and memories of my mental, tyrannical, crazed chef-boss yelling at me and throwing pans and cuss words at me.
When I quit, I had vowed never to darken the door again, and now here I was, seven years later, with my hubby and plans for a romantic evening away from the baby. Oh, life is cruel sometimes! If I could only go back, be my 20 year-old self again, and face Gary (O how I loath the name) with the strength and confidence that I have now, as a chef and as an individual, things would be VERY different! Ah well, what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, so they say.

Back to Zen Asia.

Goi du du, Green Papaya Salad with Grilled Beef and Thai Basil

The place was packed, which is always a good sign. The service was friendly and professional in this family run establishment. The food was excellent, and familiar flavours such as the unforgettable Thai basil, brought back a few memories from South East Asia. I would have liked the food to have a bit more heat, but I understand that they have to tone it down to please us picky North Americans!

We chatted with the owner’s son, Duy, who works the floor on Friday’s, and he invited us back some night after 10 pm when they hang the ‘Closed’ sign and his mama heats up the kitchen and feeds the family. It sounded like a lot of fun and that’s probably my chance to taste some really authentic Vietnamese food. Can’t wait! Now that will be something to report.

Eat your heart out Gary and Bistro 21, I’ve moved on.(and remember, you can never

have too much Dijon)

Zen Asia (450)672-6805
21 Prince Arthur, St Lambert, Quebec, J4P 1X1