August 16, 2010

Iles de la Madeleine, Part II

Smoked Scallop Grilled Cheese

Here’s a quick post of some more of the local food we feasted upon while away on vacation. These two sandwiches are made with smoked seafood from Fumoir d’Antan, a smokehouse on the islands that specializes in smoked herring.

We went for the “tour” of the smokehouse, getting to see all the herring strung up over smouldering piles of wood. The atmosphere was great – very traditional and it felt like we had stepped back in time.

Smoked Herring

In the end, we bought all sorts of their smoked products. We brought back a jar of the smoked herring, and little tins of smoked mussels and lobster roe. We also bought some of their smoked mackerel, smoked salmon and a tray of smoked scallops. These were great to eat on their own, but even more fun to eat on sandwiches!

Smoked Scallop Grilled Cheese

One lunch was smoked scallop grilled cheese, made entirely out of local products. We toasted up some of the amazing sourdough bread from the Madelon bakery, placed some of the smoked scallops on top, then smothered it with some of the unbelievable cheese from Pied-de-Vent fromagerie. Top with some black pepper and a little salt, and this was a great lunch.

Another day, we enjoyed this seafoody concocotion. Soli took some of the smoked herring and smoked salmon, tossed that into a bowl with fresh cherry tomatoes, two hard-boiled eggs, some chopped onion and a dollop of mayonnaise.

Seafood & Egg Salad Sandwich

Mash it all up together, spread on some island baguette, and I was soon eating what soon became one of my most favourite sandwiches. Salty, smoky, fishy, and bright with the tomatoes – just perfection.

Seafood & Egg Salad Sandwich

Seafood & Egg Salad Sandwich

I loved eating these things on our porch. Who wouldn’t, when you walk out your front door and have this view?

Grosse Ile

Next post – the fishing trip! Until then, a few more photos from the islands:

Île du Havre aux Maisons

Grosse Ile


Iles de la Madeleine

La Martinique, Île du Havre Aubert

Île du Havre Aubert

August 12, 2010

Zucchini & Mushroom Pasta with Garlic and Onion

Zucchini and Mushroom Pasta

Here’s a quick and easy summery pasta dish that can use up some of that zucchini surplus! With summer drawing to a close (sob!), zucchini is everywhere, and so this is a great weekday meal if you’re a little rushed and have pounds of zucchini sitting on your counter.

I knew I wanted to prepare a pasta dish that used thin slices of zucchini, so I went from there. What would go well with zucchini? In the end, I decided to sauté the zucchini slices in olive oil with garlic, onion and mushrooms, added a little bit of cream, then tossed in with the pasta. I topped it with fresh basil from the balcony garden and some grated Parmesan. In all, the dish probably took less than 30 minutes to prepare, and was bursting with fresh summery flavours. This is extremely versatile as well, so if you have other favourite veggies you’d like to include, just toss them in the pan!

Zucchini and Mushroom Pasta

Zucchini & Mushroom Pasta with Garlic and Onion
Adapted from Dirty Gourmet

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 -3 zucchini, thinly sliced
½ – 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2-3 tablespoons cream
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil, finely chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated
½ pound pasta

1. Heat olive oil in pan. Add garlic and onion and sauté over medium high heat.

2. Add mushrooms and zucchini and continue to sauté until soft.

3. Add cream, salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. Simmer while pasta cooks.

4. Prepare pasta.

5. Add pasta to the zucchini mixture. Top with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Zucchini and Mushroom Pasta

July 31, 2010

Corn and Basil Pancakes

Corn and Basil Pancakes

It’s almost corn season! This means summer is drawing to a close, so while I don’t eagerly look forward to corn season, I do appreciate a nice, sweet cob of corn. This also means that basil is in full abundance, so when I found a recipe for corn and basil pancakes, I thought it was a perfect summer recipe.

However, I was a little disappointed. I used fresh, sweet corn and basil from our balcony garden. What I ended up with was a little lackluster. I found these pancakes to be just all one note, a little corny and very basily, and not much else.

I ended up adding a dab of creme fraiche from les iles de la madeleine that we had brought back, and a healthy sprinkle of salt, and that helped up the flavour a bit, but not enough that I would make these again. They were definitely a bit boring.

Perhaps if I had them alongside some BBQ meats, it would’ve helped. I can imagine these to be a good side dish to serve at any BBQ, but as something that stand alone…not the ideal recipe.

Here it is though, if you think you could up the flavour a bit or if you’re looking for a good BBQ side dish.

Corn and Basil Pancakes

Corn and Basil Pancakes

adapted from Eating Well

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 large ears; see Tip) or frozen
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1. Whisk flour, milk, eggs, 1 tablespoon oil, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in corn and basil.

2. Brush a large nonstick skillet lightly with some of the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; heat over medium heat until hot (but not smoking). Cook 4 cakes at a time, using about 1/4 cup batter for each, making them about 3 inches wide. Cook until the edges are dry, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, 1 to 3 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining oil and batter, making 10 cakes total. Reduce the heat as necessary to prevent burning.

July 16, 2010

Iles de la Madeleine, Part I

Lobster Dinner

We’re back from our Iles de la Madeleine vacation! We managed to miss the massive Montreal heatwave and instead enjoyed hot, windy weather and all the seafood we could possibly eat.

Soli did lots of cooking there. We had rented cottages with kitchens, so cooking up our own mussels and lobsters was easy. We only ate one small snack from one resto (a pretty pathetic lobster roll), and ate fresh, homecooked meals the rest of the time.

I’ll leave the cooking posts up to Soli…but until then, a small sampling of the things we got to eat that required no preparation or cooking.

Lobster Roll

Lobster Roll
While in Prince Edward Island, the urge for good seafood overcame us, and we ordered one sandwich with our beer. This was just way overdone with the Miracle Whip. We could barely taste the lobster, so we vowed never to eat at a resto during this trip again.

Snow Crab
Snow Crab
We got these at a STEAL at one of the fish markets in Iles de la Madeleine. They were already cooked, so all we had to do was warm them up. We had them boiled, BBQ’d, and everything, and they were a staple in our island diet. Just heavenly.

Fresh Scallops
Fresh Scallops
We made some friends while we were there (Hi William and Elodie!), who brought us down to the fishing harbour our cottage overlooked late one night to meet a boat that had just arrived with a massive haul of scallops. We bought about 3 kilos fresh off the boat and enjoyed them raw all that night and for breakfast the next morning (and then for a few days after). If you’ve never had a scallop fresh from the ocean, then you haven’t had a scallop!

Fresh Scallops

We also bought some in their shells, which were also sooo amazing.

Pied-De-Vent Cheese

Pied de Vent Cheese
The islands have a fromagerie that produces some of the best cheese I’ve enjoyed. We bought curds that were still warm and enjoyed other cheeses with a chilled glass of wine.

After driving for about 20 hours, then getting tossed about on a 5-hour ferry ride, we got to spend a week on Iles de la Madeleine, eating and exploring to our hearts’ content. Food isn’t the only reason to go; this place is one of the most idyllic places we’ve had the opportunity to go to, and here’s a couple of photos to prove it:

DSandstone Cliffs

Île du Havre aux Maisons

Looking Over the Sandstone Cliffs

Iles de la Madeleine

Iles de la Madeleine

Iles de la Madeleine

Île du Havre Aubert

Île du Havre Aubert

Iles de la Madeleine

Sandstone Cliffs

Just wait until you hear about the food we actually had to work for!

June 30, 2010

Breakfast Tart with Fiddleheads, Mushrooms and Bacon

Breakfast Tart with Bacon, Fiddleheads, Mushrooms and Cheese

It seems that the hotter it gets here in Montreal, the less we feel like writing about all the great food we’re making at home. And I’m afraid that problem won’t be solved in the near future…we are soon off to visit Iles-de-la-Madeleine, about to stuff our face with lobster, mussels, scallops and clams. We haven’t left on a vacation in a few years, and haven’t smelled the ocean air in even longer, so this is an exiting adventure we’re really looking forward to. We’ll come back with plenty of lobster tales (pun so obviously intended!).

Breakfast Tart with Bacon, Fiddleheads, Mushrooms and Cheese

But for now, here’s a quick breakfast Soli whipped up one day. If you have the makings for a traditional eggs ‘n bacon breakfast, as well as some puff pastry, then this is a snap to make, and is amazingly good. A good breakfast tart is a wonderful thing to wake up to!

For this breakfast tart, we used some quality bacon, fiddleheads, mushroom, cheese and eggs. The end result was perfectly cooked eggs, slightly bitter fiddleheads, creamy goat cheese and sauteed mushrooms atop a flaky puff pastry crust. This recipe is extremely versatile though; substitute any ingredient with your own preference.

Could breakfast get any better? Oh! Yes, it can. Drizzle with maple syrup when you’re done and it’s ready to eat.

Breakfast Tart with Bacon, Fiddleheads, Mushrooms and Cheese

Breakfast Tart with Fiddleheads, Mushrooms, Bacon and Cheese

adapted from Yum Sugar

1 sheet puff pastry dough
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
4 oz. cheese (we used a decadent goat cheese)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 bacon slices, cooked until crisp
4 eggs
1 tbsp butter
1 cup fiddleheads
1 cup sliced mushrooms

1. Thaw the puff pastry dough according to the package instructions.

2. Preheat an oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

3. On lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to 1/4-inch thickness and cut into a 10-by-8-inch rectangle. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheet. Using a paring knife, score a border 1/2 inch in from the edge of the pastry. Using a fork, prick the center of the pastry. Brush the border with the egg wash and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

4. Saute fiddleheads and mushrooms in the butter until soft.

5. Place the toppings (bacon, fiddleheads, mushrooms, goat cheese) on the tart crust. Bake the tart for 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.

6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a level heatproof surface. Using a fork, prick any large air pockets in the pastry. Crack the eggs onto the tart, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still soft, 7 to 10 minutes.

6. Transfer the tart to a platter and serve immediately.

Breakfast Tart with Bacon, Fiddleheads, Mushrooms and Cheese

Breakfast Tart with Bacon, Fiddleheads, Mushrooms and Cheese

June 12, 2010

Caramel Popcorn

Caramel Popcorn

I love caramel popcorn. I like it sweet, buttery and rich. Until now, I’ve been making savory versions of popcorn, but finally tried my hand at making caramel popcorn.

This recipe is easy, sweet and delicious. The original asks for instant popcorn, but it’s cheaper and healthier just to pop your own, which I did. After the corn’s all popped up, make the caramel and pour it over the popcorn in a big bowl. Make sure you’re using a big enough bowl so that you can thoroughly cover all the popcorn!

I popped more corn kernels than a bag of instant popcorn would yield, and the amount of caramel was fine. I popped about 3/4 cup kernels and I ended up with a great batch of sweet caramel corn. However, next time, I’ll double the amount of caramel, as I like my popcorn drenched with caramel!

Caramel Popcorn

Caramel Popcorn
adapted from Life Frosted

1. Make popcorn. Here’s a great recipe for the perfectly popped popcorn!

2. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter with 1 1/2 cups of sugar over medium heat until it becomes a nice golden color

3. Take the butter/sugar mixture off the heat and add 1/2 a heaping tsp of baking soda (it will froth up so make sure you use a big enough saucepan). Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir.

5. Quickly pour the mixture over the popcorn and using a non-stick spatula, mix the popcorn around in the caramel sauce.

6. Pour the popcorn onto the baking sheet and separate into small pieces.

Caramel Popcorn

June 4, 2010

Cheesy Brown Rice with Spinach and Corn Bake

Spinach and Brown Rice

We have a bit of a surplus of frozen greens crammed inside our little freezer, so I’ve started looking for ways to get through it. I came across this recipe and it sounded so creamy and cheesy, so I instantly went to work.

It’s fairly easy to put together, though cooking the brown rice will take some time. I made some changes to the original recipe, such as adding some roasted corn, upping the amount of spinach and switching up the cheese I used. The end result was a really nice, risotto-like rice dish. It reminded me of those rice casseroles people make out of condensed soup, only better-tasting. It’s definitely cheesy, the corn adds a really great sweetness and I like the chew of the brown rice. I wouldn’t say this dish is outstanding, but I think it would be a great side with chicken or something to bring to a potluck.

Spinach and Brown Rice

Cheesy Brown Rice with Spinach and Corn Bake
adapted from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

1 yellow onion, sliced thin
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black Pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
14 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth (1 + 3/4 cup)
2 cups cheese (I used some Camembert and cheddar, but the original recipe asks for smoked gouda) shredded
2 cups frozen spinach, partially thawed
3 cups long-grain brown rice, cooked
fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
parmesan cheese, grated, for serving

1. Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium-low heat, add onion, sugar and season with salt and pepper. Saute 15-20 minutes, adding more oil if it begins to stick to the pan. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

3. In the same pan the onions were sauteed in melt butter and whisk in flour. Cook for two to three minutes, whisking. Slowly whisk in milk and chicken broth. Add nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, whisking often. Stir in cheese. Add spinach and onion mixture. Turn off heat. Whisk well and break apart any clumps of spinach.

3. Stir in cooked rice. Pour into greased 9×13 casserole/baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbly. Let set for ten minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley and serve with Parmesan if desired.

May 29, 2010

Carrot Raisin Muffins

Carrot Raisin Muffins

I first made these muffins in 2005 (I always write comments on any recipe I make, including the date and who I made the recipe for), and back then, they deemed an “Excellent!” When I realized I had a few scraggly carrots lying around that needed to be used, I decided to revisit these muffins.

They’re called “Spicy Carrot Muffins” in the book, but I can’t taste the “spiciness” of them, so I’ve renamed them. This time around, I also made a few changes. I didn’t include any nuts this time, and upped the amount of raisins to 1 cup. Also, I only used 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup apple sauce – the original wants 3/4 oil – and they’re just as good, if not better.

Next time, I would add even more cinnamon, and use only 1 cup sugar. But even without those alterations, this is a good and simple muffin recipe that you can whip together in no time (if you don’t mind grating all those carrots; am I the only person who consistently grates their thumb when it comes to carrot-grating?). The cinnamon is wonderful, and of course plays well with all that carrot. They’re moist and a good muffin-texture. Just make sure you don’t over-mix – muffins will become sooo tough if you do.

Carrot Raisin Muffins

Carrot Raisin Muffins
adapted from Robin Hood’s Home Baking

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup raisins
1/2 chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, optional)
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups grated carrots (peeled first)
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and grease muffin pan lightly.

1. Combine flour, sugar, raisins, nuts, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Stir well.

2. Beat carrots, eggs and oil. Add to dry ingredients all at once, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan.

3. Bake for 25-27 minutes until tops spring back when lightly touched.

Carrot Raisin Muffins

May 26, 2010

Chili Cheese Bread

chili cheese bread

It’s been pretty hot here lately, so I figured what better recipe to post than a slightly spicy, very flavourful and cheesy Chili Cheese Bread? It’s a simple quick bread to prepare, and I think it would be an awesome choice for any summer picnic or BBQ.

This bread is extremely moist, with a slight crunch on the top crust. It uses three different types of peppers: fresh jalapeno, some canned peppers and red bell pepper, so there’s a definite heat to the bread, as well as a freshness coming from the bell pepper. The cheese, of course, only makes the bread more flavourful.

I reduced the amount of pepper used in the recipe. For me, I could’ve had things a little spicier, but since I was making it for others who aren’t all that impressed with spicy foods, I reduced it. However, some still found it spicy, so take care when choosing the amount of your peppers. I used canned jalapeno peppers, so but only half the can.

Given how easy this bread is to make, and just how packed with flavour it is, I can see myself making it time and time again.

chili cheese bread

Chili-Cheese Bread
Adapted from Pink Parsley Catering, adapted from Savory Baking, Mary Cech

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 cup) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
3 Tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno chili, veined and seeded
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375, and  grease or spray an 8×3 inch loaf pan.

2. Sift together the flour, salt, pepper, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl.  Add the cheese and gently toss and stir until it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

3. Whisk the milk, oil, egg, green chilies, jalapeno, and red bell pepper in another bowl.  Make a well in the center of the flour and cheese mixture, and pour the milk mixture in the center.  Briefly blend with a spatula, only until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and place in the oven.  Bake until the top is golden-brown, and springs back when touched in the center, about 45-50 minutes.  Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and cool completely.

May 17, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside Down Cake

Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside-Down Cake

When I first saw the chocolate-caramel-banana upside down cake on The Food Librarian, I fell in love. I adore upside down cakes because of all their rich, sweet caramel soaking through the top, so making a chocolate cake and using thick slices of bananas on the top sounds like the perfectly heavenly cake. Sounds like the cake to make for Mother’s Day!

This cake certainly did not disappoint! It was quite the flavour combination: the chocolate cake was not overly rich, but moist with a still strong chocolate taste. However, all the caramel somewhat takes away from any strong chocolate flavour, making the chocolate a background note. The Food Librarian thought the original recipe was too sweet and would decrease the amount of sugar and butte topping, but I disagree; I thought it was the perfect amount! Upside-down cakes are supposed to be heavy on the caramel, and I thought the amount played wonderfully with the chocolate of the cake. As for the bananas, this cake had a great banana flavour. The bananas cooked their flavour down into the cake and across the caramel.

Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside-Down Cake

I served this warm with a dollop of caramel ice cream, and it was just divine. The next day, I ate a piece cold, and it was just as good, with a heavier, denser texture. Both ways, absolutely wonderful. If you are looking for a fun variation on the usual upside-down cake, then this is for you. If you just love chocolate, caramel and bananas, then this cake is great for that too. All in all, it is a simple cake to make and soooo good to eat.

Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside-Down Cake

Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside Down Cake

adapted from The Food Librarian

1 stick butter
3/4 c light brown sugar
3 ripe bananas, cut into 1/4-inch slices

3/4 c plus 2 T unbleached all-purpose flour
6 T (1/4 c plus 2T) unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs (room temp)
2 t vanilla
2/3 c buttermilk (I just soured some normal milk with lemon juice)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9″ x 2″ cake pan.

2. Topping: Heat butter over medium heat until melted and foamy. Whisk in brown sugar, turn heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, for two minutes or until the mixture is thick. Spread on the bottom of the 9″ cake pan.

3. Arrange the bananas in a circle on top of the sugar mixture. Set aside.

4. Sift together flour, cocoa, soda and salt.

5. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Stir in vanilla.

6. On low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk (3 flour and 2 milk additions).

7. Scrape down the sides and then beat batter on high for 30 seconds.

8. Pour batter over the bananas and smooth out.

9. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit on wire rack for 5 minutes. Then carefully invert onto your serving tray. Let sit at least 20 minutes before diving in.

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