Monthly Archives: October 2010

OYSTER VISIONS

These are so perfectly my style it hurts.

On a semi-related note, I’m so happy to be living in greatest oyster city in North America. Quebec oysters are even better than their Oregon and Washington counterparts.

[All images via The Best Time of the Day]

BECOMING A BAKER

Absolutely exhausted from a long week of baking at Dépanneur le Pick Up. Starting Monday I’m going to start posting way more about my new job there as their baker! The amount I’ve learned in the last month alone kind of blows my mind. It’s hard to think of myself as a ‘professional baker,’ but I like it. The hard work and immediate results are instantly satisfying in a way that writing has never been for me. This week alone I’ve made a chocolate devil’s food cake with caramel granache, vegan cranberry jam bars, spiced pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, pumpkin butterscotch cookies, dark chocolate brownies, lemon bars, moist apple cake, tiny currant tea cookies, and sweet/salty Smarties cookies (the Canadian version of M&Ms)! (I tend to Tweet quite a bit about my baking adventures).

So you’ll excuse if I’m exhausted this evening — there’s no recipe to celebrate tonight. Just an image of the most humble kind of meal: a dish of pasta, extra spicy Italian sausage, and sauteed beet greens. Dep baking posts to start with vigor next week; in the meantime, check out the first event I’ve booked at the Dep — a film screening with brilliant filmmaker and friend Hisham Mayet, who is the co-founder of the amazing record label, Sublime Frequencies. More here.

SOULMATE SAUCE: THE BEURRE BLANC

After two weeks in a cramped hotel room, numerous mediocre restaurant-catered meals, and one 11-long hour train ride from NYC to Montreal, I was really, truly ready for a simple, home-cooked meal.

One speedy trip to the market later, we had a small fish fillet — I already forget what it was; was it perch? — which we lightly dredged in flour and seared quickly in a pan with smoking hot butter and lemon. I was craving huge bowls of fresh vegetables, so I contributed two super simple side dishes: roasted beets with chopped parsley, and sauteed swiss chard with fried garlic, bacon, shallots and lemon. Not to be outdone, my boyfriend made a remarkable beurre blanc from scratch. The resultant creamy, tangy, velvety liquid was one of the most powerfully delicious sauces I’ve ever had in my life. Vivid notes of sweetness, tart, vinegar, salt, cream, and fat, all in perfect balance.

Also: another NEA fellow, Sophia Ahmad, wrote a great little wrap-up detailing our two weeks at Columbia. I miss the chaos of NYC already. Read it here!

CELEBRATING, APPRECIATING

The first night we arrived in NYC, my old friends Jon and Ali — who write the incredible, luscious blog How To Cook Everything – Illustrated — hosted an wondrous dinner party in our honor. But where to start? The fork-tender roasted acorn squash salad with a tart balsamic reduction? The fragrant, velvety Philippino adobo with squash and short ribs cooked sous-vide, served over creamy pillows of polenta? The morsels of roasted cauliflower with concord grapes that burst in your mouth like tiny water balloons? Or Jon’s homemade salted caramel ice cream? Or, perhaps, the three bottles of wine we drank, one label of which read:

Moric disdains flamboyance and effect while speaking with an authentic and articulate voice at all levels on the ladder. Old vines from heritage sites offer fine fruit, which retains its own voice against dictates of fashion.”

Fair enough! A perfect meal with wonderful friends, and a relaxed, cozy beginning to a 2-week flurry of activity in NYC. I felt so spoiled and so lucky. Thanks again, guys!

GETTING SQUASHED

It’s full-blown squash season here in Montreal! And it’s incredible.

What vegetable is more iconic of the golden autumnal afternoons than the glorious, refrigerator-shaped butternut squash? And! It’s so easy to peel, and holds its shape great in a long-cooking white lasagna. We paired a roasted tray of diced butternut squash with a skillet of creamy bechamel sauce and pan of sauteed spinach and garlic. The whole mess was layered until the bechamel and grated pecorino ran out, and then I had to wait a torturous hour before we could devour half the pan.

Oh, and we added toasted, chopped hazelnuts and deep fried sage leaves in brown butter to the roasted squash mixture. It was the best balance of sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy. Served with Adam’s special, top-secret arugula salad — he has thoroughly convinced me that a finely-diced raw arugula leaf is the only way to consume it. He’s right, of course.

WELCOMING BREAKFAST

Breakfast is such a nice time around here. I’ve never been a ‘breakfast’ person, really. When I worked a full-time job, I savored every last second of sleep and raced out the door at 8:58am to get to work. Maybe I would make a pot of coffee. Then I waited patiently until lunchtime to have my first meal of the day. Looking back on it now, it was a brutal way to live.

Now that I bake in the afternoons and write from home in the mornings, mornings have become a lovely thing. I still wake up at the same time, but I always share some breakfast with my boyfriend before he leaves for work. And while our dinners tend to be exceedingly complicated, breakfasts are always blissfully simple. (Speaking of which: the best photo breakfast blog out there).

It’s almost always some iteration of toast/bagel/baguette with margarine/peanut butter/cream cheese and tomato/cucumbers/smoked fish. In the summer, there were more variations on the fruit/cottage cheese/juice/granola theme. But this time, a leftover baguette paired itself with tangy goat cheese, shallots, cracked black pepper and quartered heirloom tomatoes (and some salmon jerky, orange juice and tea).

 

HAPPY DECISION MAKING: LEFTOVER LOBSTER OPTIONS

Leftovers. I love them. After an outrageous Saturday date night eating spicy grilled shrimp, 30 day dry-aged steaks, broiled lobster tail, and a dozen oysters on the half shell (not including the cheesecake we ordered, as we both only managed a single bite each), we left Queue de Cheval with not an insignificant amount of leftover lobster. Half a pound, at least. By the way, that restaurant is out of control.

I’ve been brainstorming all morning how to utilize this precious crustacean gold — omelet? pasta? buried underneath puff pastry? risotto? — and all I can think about is my mother’s brilliantly fluffy-yet-crispy fried rice. Her fried rice ingredients are always slightly different depending on the mood she’s in, and the last iteration I enjoyed had huge pieces of lump crab and lobster in it. I’m not even going to try to imitate its seafaring perfection, so I think I’ll stick with the omelet.

FRENCH PEAR TART, & OTHER HAPPY MISTAKES

Earlier this fall, we bought a beautiful basket of tender, fragrant pears at the market and I needed to make something sweet for a dinner party. I loved the weird primordial vibe of this French Pear Tart at Tuesdays with Dorie, so weird primordial tart it was.

With the almond cream, pastry dough, poached pears, and jam glaze finish, it’s a bit labor intensive, but certainly worth it. Along the way I made one error — I used a tart pan about 40% bigger than what was recommended. But the error turned into a delicious surprise: the crumbly, sweet pastry dough and fluffy almond cream baked so thinly and for so long that the batter turned into a big slab of praline. Brittle. Or firm, chewy caramel. The result was not so much a tart, but a crunchy, sweet cookie topped with tender slices of pear.

But the greatest bonus of making this tart: we saved and bottled the poaching liquid from the pears — infused with citrus, cloves, cinnamon, and sugar — to make fizzy, aromatic bellinis for my guy’s birthday party.

HIDING AWAY, BUNDLING UP

Montreal is swaying between fall and winter, and I’m while I’m battling the fierce winds and gauzy skies in truly pathetic winter wear, I secretly love the austerity and calm. Still in need a summer-send off meal, I seared a slab of swordfish steak in the style of my friend Spencer — on extremely high heat, in opaque pools of melted butter, and with excessive amounts of salt and pepper. The trick he picked up in Italy? He ate steaks that were seared plainly and then plopped on a bed of diced parsley marinating in olive oil. I finished this swordfish steak with plenty of lemon wedges and served with a faux-Greek salad — baby arugula, raw diced corn, sliced red onions, crumbled feta, and quartered heirloom tomatoes, topped with diced parsley and a thin red wine vinaigrette.

On another note: I have joined Twitter! My experience at the NEA Institute was, among many other things, one of the most intense, edifying, exciting, and intellectually rich experiences I’ve ever had. One of the most immediate things I came away from the two weeks was the curiosity to check out this thing they call Twitter. I’m still new — so please play nice! — but follow me here, or let me know if you’re on there too. I need my minuscule feed to be slightly more interesting than Huffington Post and Holy Mountain, yikes.

THE START OF SOMETHING ELSE

I’m back! It feels so good to be back in this little space. The NEA Institute was one of the most unique, intense musical experiences I’ve ever had, amazing in every way — I heard it described more than once as a an ‘opera and classical music boot camp.’ So right.

I have so much to share from my last two weeks in NYC, but I’ll start with the hiking photos from Oregon’s Latourell Falls, as I promised. Montreal is on the brink of winter here — we may even turn the heat on today! I’m envisioning a winter’s worth of wine, Mahler’s ‘Tragic Symphony’ on repeat, braised lamb, roasted fennel, poached pears and fresh bread with salted butter — even the photos of the bountiful August picnic below aren’t enough to seduce me from my cozy winter vision…