the last dessert standing

I generally don't like to play favourites when it comes to desserts. This is because I like dessert a lot. When dining out, and my wallet is up for i,t I save room for dessert and when I have dinner parties dessert it is usually the first dish I decide on. I like many desserts. I do not believe in comparing a flour-less chocolate cake to a whiskey pear tart. Two different flavours cannot be measured against each other. As the Germans say (instead of "it's like apples and oranges"), they're just two different pairs of shoes. The English saying might be more appropriate in a food context, but the German one has won me over.

That said, I do have a desert island dessert: sticky toffee pudding. This is not a dessert to eat everyday, but it is one to think about everyday and to look forward to. And I think about sticky toffee pudding a lot. I first had it a few years ago at Starfish in Toronto. The obsession began then. Luckily, shortly after the owners of Starfish opened up a more casual restaurant, the Ceili Cottage, in my Toronto neighbourhood. My aunt and I quickly commenced a weekly routine of oysters (I miss you Malpeques) and sticky toffee pudding. Sometimes we share and sometimes we order our own. Either way, I have never left the Ceili Cottage without being in sticky toffee pudding bliss.

Last fall I received a call from my Aunt. She had just picked up the Toronto Life Magazine and in it the owner of the Ceili Cottage had shared the recipe for their sticky toffee pudding. To say that I felt joy is a gross understatement. I certainly have never seen sticky toffee pudding on the menu anywhere in Sweden, or enough places for that matter. Sticky toffee pudding at home would demand a whole other level of self control.

The Ceili Cottage's Sticky Toffee Pudding

from Toronto Life Magazine



1 1/4 cups water
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking power
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
3/4 cup unrefined sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 vanilla bean

Toffee sauce

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350/180. Butter a square baking pan. Bring water to boil in a small saucepan and then stir in dates. Stir well and then remove from heat. Let cool and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In a medium bowl soften butter with either a fork or a mixer. Add sugar and mix until fluffy. Beat in egg and add vanilla. In a blender, pulse dates and water until smooth. Stir flour and date mixture into sugar, alternatively. Start and end with flour. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Shortly before the cake is ready, make the toffee sauce. Heat butter and sugar in a saucepan until butter melts, stirring frequently. Stir in cream, bring to a boil and then stir occasionally. Serve cake with toffee sauce and softly whipped cream.



postcards from nordiska akvarellmuseet

The Swedes got it right. Where better to have a museum devoted to watercolour paintings than next to the water?


feasting on art recipe contest

Floris Gerritsz von Schooten, A Still Life of Cheese, c. 1585
oil on oak panel, 39.3 x 55.2cm, Private collection

Cheese is a muse. Its history is ancient and its uses are many. To cut, to grate, to melt, to bake, to fry and, even, to be painted. Feasting on Art's recipe contest is inspired by cheese. Floris Gerritsz van Schooten, the Dutch painter, was also inspired by cheese. Many of his paintings depicted food - from still lives of breakfast or fruit to kitchen scenes and market tables. He painted A Still Life of Cheese in c. 1585. With a stack of hard cheeses and a few scattered currants, the soft lighting dresses up the cheese. Inspired by the red of the currants and the different tones of cheese, I decided to play around with a classic souffle. Caramelized red onions and Gorgonzola meet in a ramekin and become souffle. These two decadent flavours are paired with an arugula salad with a simple vinaigrette, currants and toasted pine nuts. A lot of cheese next to a handful of greens and reds. The recipe is perfect for a Friday afternoon lunch for one.

Caramelized Red Onion and Gorgonzola Souffle

inspired by Floris Gerritsz van Schotten's A Still Life of Cheese


1 small to medium red onion
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp virgin olive oil
sea salt
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 egg yolk, room temperature
2 egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp butter + butter to coat ramekin
1 tbsp pecorino romano, finely grated
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/3 cup milk
sea salt
1/3 cup Gorgonzola

Finely slice the red onion. Melt butter over medium heat in a frying pan, then add olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add onion and salt. Stir well to coat onion and then stir occasionally. After 10-15 minutes, reduce heat to medium-low. Let cook for 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so to make sure that the onions do not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Once onions are done, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Coat the ramekin with butter - the bottom and sides. Then coat the bottom and sides with grated pecorino romano. Set aside.

In a medium bowl (preferably metal), whisk egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Melt butter over low heat in a saucepan. Once melted, add flour and stir. Remove from heat after a minute and whisk in milk until combined. Return to heat and stir until thickened. Add fresh thyme and salt and then remove from heat. Add egg yolk and stir. Add some of the egg whites with half of the Gorgonzola. Once combined, fold in the rest of the egg whites, Gorgonzola and caramelized red onions. Pour into ramekin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the souffle has risen and the top is browned. Do not open the oven door until ready. After a few minutes out of the oven, the souffle will collapse. Serve immediately with a light green salad.

Arugula Salad with Currants and Pine Nuts


3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
sea salt
black pepper
1/2 - 1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp minced preserved lemons
pine nuts
a generous handful of arugula

In a dry skillet over medium-low heat add pine nuts. Cook until browned, tossing the pan frequently to ensure that they do not burn. Whisk together the apple cider vinegar, sea salt, black pepper, dijon and minced preserved lemons. Add the olive oil. In a bowl toss together the arugula with the dressing. Add the currants and toasted pine nuts.



it's here

I think that all of my impulse tulip purchases helped to summon spring.

With ice in such graphic shapes floating in such blue water, I know spring is here in Sweden.


with an egg on top

Once a friend and I tried to count all the ways that one can cook eggs - fried (over-easy, or sunny-side-up), poached, boiled (soft or hard), baked, scrambled - and the many things that one can eat eggs with. Needless to say, it is a list without an end. And things without ends reveal great possibilities.

A few years back I started buying only organic eggs. This progressed out of several years of having only bought free-range eggs, a decision that was actually encouraged by my partner. Between the two of us, I am definitely the more food inclined one. Although he is excellent at chopping and makes a delicious moussaka and several German dishes that took me a while to learn to pronounce, I am the one who obsesses over food. He has told me this, several times. I am also the one who is more conscious about food production. Although he likes an organic beer, he doesn't think twice about the type of meat he buys. Therefore, it was a surprise when he insisted that we switch to buying more ethical eggs.

His reason for doing so is simple. We once stayed in a hostel in New York that resembled a garden shed more than it did a hostel. It was essentially a large room that was divided into tiny rooms with "walls" built from plywood and the type of crisscrossed wood that vines grow on. There were no windows, only about 100 rooms that were back to back. You could hear someone whisper on a mobile phone down the hall. He said it made him feel sorry for all of the chickens kept in cages and from that day on he has bought only free-range or organic eggs.

I also think they taste better.

One of my favourite ways to cook eggs is to poach them. I like having a soft yolk that mixes with what I am eating. Chickpeas in a tomato sauce is an especially good mix with the yolk. This recipe was written to serve four with two poached eggs per person. I usually omit the measurements and make it with one egg for myself. I find the measurements don't matter for this recipe and it is best if made to taste.

Poached Eggs with Chickpeas and Tomato Sauce

inspired by Lucy Waverman's column for the Globe & Mail


olive oil or ghee
chopped onion or shallot
chopped garlic
crushed tomatoes or fresh tomatoes with a bit of tomato paste
balsamic vinegar
ground cumin
sea salt
chili flakes or cayenne pepper
freshly ground pepper
a splash of lemon juice
fresh parsley or cilantro
grated pamigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano

1 or more eggs
white vinegar, optional

Heat oil or ghee over medium heat. Add onion and after a minute or two add garlic. Once fragrant add the chickpeas. Then stir in crushed tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes and tomato paste. Add balsamic vinegar, cumin, sea salt, and chili flakes or cayenne pepper. Let simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and add a splash of lemon juice and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, bring water to boil in a small saucepan. Once water has boiled, add a splash of white vinegar if you wish. Add the egg and stir the water so that the white part of the egg floats above the yolk. After three minutes, remove the egg with a slotted spoon. Serve the poached egg on top of the chickpeas and tomatoes. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and freshly grated
pamigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano.



it was sunny

When it snows after a pair of radiant, sunny days, I don't mind. I eat bananas and clementines and shredded coconut and I think about how close spring is. Sometimes I like drastic changes in weather. Perhaps it is because I grew up in Ontario where every year sandwiched between days of -10 to -20 weather in January we have a day of +10. Or, perhaps it is because I feel comforted by the fact that no matter how much we alter and control genes and vegetables, we can never control the weather.

For the record, I also quite like spring.


a green morning

Until last week, I had a twice broken blender. First, the blade was broken. After a very long waiting list for a new blade and two glorious days of milkshakes and smoothies, the whole bottom of the blender basically shattered. All this while, my mind was piling up a list of things to make once our blender was fixed: cashew butter, kale pesto, sticky toffee pudding, almond flour, soups and so on. At the top of this list - and as the two days of blender activity demonstrate - were smoothies. As much as I love fruit and fruity beverages, my teeth cannot handle the added sugar found in most store-bought juice. This makes home-made smoothies ideal and a part of my breakfast of champions.

Smoothies are also very forgiving so you can load them up with all of the healthy things hiding in your kitchen: hemp and protein powders, dates, almonds, fresh lemon juice, kale and spinach. Smoothies are a good way to take a tip from Popeye the Sailor Man who got the reputation of being stronger-than-strong because of his loyalty to eating spinach. I know that I do not get nearly enough greens, but with a blender, some fruit and a tablespoon of honey that is sure to change.

Spinach and Pear Smoothie


1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
a heaping handful of spinach, well rinsed
1 banana, preferably frozen
1 pear, chopped
1 tbsp of honey
1 tsp of hemp powder
cold water if needed

Blend together the orange juice and spinach until well-mixed. Add the pear, banana, honey and hemp powder and blend. If too thick, add cold water to taste.



the luxury of bread

I grew up in a family that takes bread very seriously. I was taught that bread should come from a bakery preferably over a grocery store and - during the fad of bread makers in the 1990s - from home. My family does not include any expert bread makers, but it does have many expert bread eaters. Case in point: after spending a few months in rehab for a hip infection, the first thing my grandfather did upon leaving was drive to Bagel Plus for onion buns and Bagel World for poppy seed bagels. I trust that he bought some pumpernickel somewhere along the way.

I grew up eating whole wheat and dark breads. My mother - an avid runner and healthy eater - taught me that white bread is simply not bread. She often bought whole wheat or seven grain brain. This idea I completely absorbed during my childhood and whenever I went to a diner for breakfast my answer to "white toast or brown" was already determined. My father, who lived in another city, also never was a white bread eater. To this day, the only bread that I have ever seen him buy is rye.

And then like all good parental intentions often do, my whole wheat, dark bread eating hit an obstacle. This obstacle is called France. I moved there when I was 18 to become an au pair. I moved to France because of how seductive French culture - and the myth of French culture - are. I moved there because of the language and because of the food. I moved there because of the cheese, the outdoor markets, the wine and the pastries. Well, white bread became a highlight of my new French life and brioche became a new everyday (well, not quite everyday, but a regular) luxury.

Like most good French recipes, brioche has a lot of butter. Fat is what makes things taste good and butter is what makes this bread so luxurious. Of course, France did not completely cancel out my whole wheat and dark bread upbringing. Most of the time I eat only dark breads (and I am lucky enough to have a roommate who is excellent at baking bread as I am still learning), but every once and a while brioche is the perfect luxury. There is much debate about Marie Antoinette's infamous "Let them eat cake!" quote and whether it referred to a bread shortage in Paris when she was married to Louis XVI, or if she actually first said this years before at the age of ten. Either way, the English translation has done us a disservice as the French is "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!" Brioche might not be cake, but it is still extremely luxurious.


from la tartine gourmande


1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
78 grams (2 3/4 oz) butter, room temperature
2 organic eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp dry baker's yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup warm milk
a pinch of sea salt

1 egg yolk, for glaze
1 tsp sugar, for glaze

In a medium to large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and baker's yeast. Make a hole in the middle of the mixture and add the warm milk. Mix with a spoon, or the tip of your fingers. Add the pinch of salt and the sugar. Add the butter one piece at a time while stirring to make sure that all of the butter is absorbed. Once butter is absorbed, add one egg at a time. Mix well before adding the second egg. Work the dough until it begins to detach more easily from your fingers and it feels elastic. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place in a warm spot (away from a draft) until it doubles in size, about two hours.

Once double in size, work the dough again for about 10 minutes. Divide into four balls and place into a greased 10" long loaf mold. Cover again with the tea towel and place in a warm place for 1-2 hours until the balls rise.

Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Brush the brioche with the egg yolk. Sprinkle the tsp of sugar on top. Make small cuts at the top of each ball with a pair of scissors. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat of the oven to 350F/175C. Bake for about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack and then serve. Eat with apple butter, or lemon curd. Eat in a sandwich with spicy shrimp, or cucumbers.



roman holiday II

I like cities that make me look up as I turn every street corner in anticipation of an icon, an orange tree, or a collage of building materials. I also like cities with restaurants that serve red onion and gorgonzola flans and bakeries that serve pizze.

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