Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Burger Tuesdays Are The Cat's Meow

Hidden in my Twitter 'ticker tape' feed was the weekly tweet I was waiting for!

BlackCatOttawa Tonight's Burger Special: beef burg w/ roasted garlic mayo, melted brie, caramelized onions, roasted jalepenos and bacon. #burgertuesdays

Their Burger Tuesday challenge started early March, pitting Chef Patricia Larkin's weekly creation against the house regular, Richard’s 8oz Angus Burger - Smoked Bacon, Sharp Cheddar, Secret Sauce, Pomme Frites, Pickles & Truffle Mayo.

I was sold! It was time to get off the sidelines and check out this burger competition. I knew the teenager would be game for some action. We went all Switzerland on them though and ordered one of each.

They took their time preparing the meal to make sure every detail was calculated. It was worth the wait. In some ways, our toppings were quite similar, so no surprise that we were both very pleased. They offered medium doneness and it turned out to be the right call for my tastes. Still lots of juicy flavour between that bun.

And let me tell you about that bun. It is not something I would typically be fixated on but hamburger buns can be tricky. You make them too soft and they go to mush before you can get very far into the assault. You engineer it to stand up to the burger's moisture and it may be too chewy. This was a great bun. It held its own and still maintained pillowy, fresh softness. The buns are made especially for the Black Cat Bistro. No source revealed. I loved the bun!

The dish comes with a substantial serving of their frites cooked in peanut oil, elegantly placed in a white ceramic frites holder.

I even loved the blessed pickle.

Whether you are taking the Tuesday burger or the Richard burger, both meals are priced at $20. Some might think that is a bit dear for burger night out, if they have ever ventured to another great burger place nearby called the Hintonburger.

Both are great places and both have their niche. This is a bigger burger at 8 ounces! Plus truffle mayo for the frites. Truffle mayo! A pickle. A fantastically crunchy pickle. GREAT bun. Amped up toppings. Fresh, made in-house country wheat bread with maple butter to hold you over while your order goes to the kitchen. Guaranteed to be sitting. Table service. Regular top ups of fresh ice water. Warmth. Linen napkins. Stainless steel cutlery. Ambiance.

We were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed our 'fast food' experience at BCB. No more sitting on the fence. From our vantage point, Burger Tuesdays are the cat's meow.

Black Cat Bistro
428 Preston Street (at the corner of Norman St.)
Ottawa, Ontario
Twitter: BlackCatOttawa

Mon to Sat: 5 - 10 pm

Black Cat Bistro on Urbanspoon

Life of Pie's Butter Tart

Seventy-five cents. That's it. Seventy-five cents gets you a butter tart from Life of Pie, 1095 Bank Street in Old Ottawa South.

I take great pride in my own homemade butter tarts, finally perfected after many years of tinkering. As seems to be the Canadian pass time, I still continue my search for the perfect tart beyond my kitchen. No surprise that I might pick one up on my recent stroll through Old Ottawa South.

For me I like a softer flake to my crust but I was glad that their shell was not too thick. The filling was not packed with raisins or nuts; just pure runny goo. A well pitched sweetness, in fact. But I am not a fan of the sugar crystallizing in the bottom of the tart. A problem I once had with my tarts too. More syrup and less sugar helps. Plus cream. They will work to maintain the suspension of all those ingredients of goodness.

For seventy-five cents, I would do it again.

Life of Pie
1095 Bank Street (Old Ottawa South)
Ottawa, Ontario

Mon to Fri: 8 am - 6 pm
Sat: 8:30 am - 5 pm
Sun: 10 am - 4 pm

Exclusive 'Fennel' Le Creuset at Grace In The Kitchen

Have you always craved a piece of Le Creuset cookware? Are you into the colour 'fennel'? Then make your way to Grace In the Kitchen in Old Ottawa South at 1165 Bank Street. The colour fennel is exclusive in Ottawa to Grace In The Kitchen.

Le Creuset has been around for over 85 years! The enamelled cast iron cookware is recognized around the world as the best. The French Oven is likely the most sought after first piece to own as it is so versatile. Many a stew, chili and coq au vin have been made to perfection in Le Creuset.

Maybe fennel will be all the temptation you need to buy your first piece.

Grace In The Kitchen
1165 Bank Street (Old Ottawa South)
Ottawa, Ontario

Mon to Sat: 10 am - 6 pm
Sun: 11 am - 5 pm

Monday, March 28, 2011

Farfalle Pasta with a Spicy Rosé Sauce, Pine Nuts, Parma and Pesto

Last night, listening to CBC Radio on the long, dark, lonely drive home, I heard the rebroadcast of a piece done on The Current.

It had this foodie's attention because it was about Ryan Stone, Canada's representative at the Bocuse D'Or competition in January.

The Bocuse D'Or takes place in Lyon, France every other year and is a prestigious world culinary competition.

One of the things that struck me was the level of his preparedness before the event. For his training, his team made the effort to recreate the work environment of the competition space right down to the layout of the kitchen itself, the size of the work surfaces and the positioning of the hard-wired installed equipment. Familiarity would be key to his success. Every surgically executed maneuver was calculated since they were critical to his outcomes and his time on the clock. He brought all of his own serving platters and specialized equipment to the competition.

I understood his strategy. How often in our own kitchen do our moves unfold without fully conscious thought? Our kitchen area just an extension of ourselves. Turning in the work space to the counter behind us. The number of steps to the sink. Our reach from our cutting surface to the cook top.

In a small way I could relate. I had just been in my brother's beautiful new galley kitchen and all those steps were foreign to me just by the configuration alone. My reach to the spices, usually extended me to my right, now had me reaching down in front, two drawers below. The spatula in my drawer to the left was now in a drawer behind me. A different grip and pressure on the garlic press. No familiar Microplane rasp for the cheese. For them, their kitchen is very functional; their steps committed to their subconscious. As a result, many wonderful meals come from this space.

As I took the lead on Saturday evening's pasta dinner, I found I needed to reprogram my kitchen dance moves. At least for that afternoon. Eventually I found my new familiarity. If only for a few hours. Thankfully it is a pure blessing how well we work with each other, like poetry in motion, to pull all the final aspects of the meal together in perfect synchronicity. My occasional awkward moments of two left feet went unnoticed.

At 5:55 pm, like a choreographed dance troupe, we sashayed in unison, with the plated dinner dishes in hand, into a very finely decorated dining room and took our seats. My afternoon in the kitchen was no Bocuse D'Or competition, but it was pleasing to know that in the end, the meal was reasonably stress-free, delivered on time and enjoyed by all.

(By the way, Ryan Stone placed 12th, midway in the pack. First place went to 3 time medal winner, Rasmus Kofoed from Denmark.)

Farfalle Pasta with a Spicy Rosé Sauce, Pine Nuts, Parma and Pesto
Inspired by a book club foodie friend, JK

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
5 regular cooking onions, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 ounce can whole Italian tomatoes
14 ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated parma reggiano cheese
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup table cream
454 gr box of Barilla's Farfalle n° 65 pasta

homemade pesto
grated parma reggiano
toasted pine nuts

Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add diced onions and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes until soft. Stir occasionally and control the heat to make sure they do not brown at all. Add the 3 minced cloves of garlic and continue to sauté for another minute until the fragrance of the garlic is released.

Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Briefly cut the tomatoes with the edge of your spatula to release their juices. Add the Italian seasoning, chili flakes, sugar, salt and pepper. Let it simmer very slowly for as much as 3 hours if you can afford that time. The tomatoes should fall apart. Cut them apart again if there still remains larger pieces.

Heat the olive oil and sauté the 6 cloves of garlic for about a minute. Make sure the oil is not too hot and that the garlic does not brown at all. Add to the sauce. Stir. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Toast the pine nuts. Using a blender, loosely chop about 1/2 cup of the pine nuts. Add to the sauce. Also add 1/2 cup of grated parma reggiano. Stir. Remove 2 cups of the sauce and purée. Add the purée back into the pot. Stir. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Keep the heat on a low simmer. Just before serving, add the cream and stir. Make sure that you do not over heat the sauce once the cream has been added.

Prepare the pasta. I like to use Barilla's Farfalle n° 65 because I like the smaller bow-tie size and they also cook through consistently in about 13 minutes.

Stir a bit of sauce on the pasta and turn gently to coat. Place a serving of pasta in a pasta bowl and cover in sauce. Garnish with a dollop of homemade pesto, toasted pine nuts and grated parma reggiano cheese.

Serves 4 to 6.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Banana Bread with Blueberries and Walnuts

I often store over-ripe bananas in the freezer for later use. The bananas get extra smooshie while they thaw, giving a more even consistency during the mashing process. To me, they also seem more fragrant and flavourful. Our old family recipe for banana bread came from a dear family friend. I often change it up by adding extras. This time it was plump blueberries and lightly toasted walnuts.

The loaf was gifted to my special mother-in-law. She was happy for us to have a taste too.

Having a slice with a light spread of soft butter is pure decadence, considering how rich it is already. The only way to enjoy banana bread is with a good strong cup of tea.

Banana Bread with Blueberries and Walnuts
Inspired by Rita Klimek

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 large bananas, mashed
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries, washed and sorted
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Toast walnuts in 350ºF oven for 5 minutes. Chop loosely when cooled.

Cream butter and sugar together. Ensure eggs are at room temperature. (You can put them in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes if you forget to take them out ahead of time.) Add beaten eggs one at a time.

Mash bananas thoroughly with egg beater or in a blender.

Sift dry ingredients together and fold into batter alternating with mashed bananas. (Four parts flour mixture and 3 parts banana mixture.)

When the 4th part of flour mixture is almost all folded in, add the blueberries and chopped toasted walnuts so they are very lightly covered in flour. This keeps the blueberries and walnuts from sinking to the bottom of the loaf.

Put into a greased and floured loaf pan.

Bake for 45 minutes in a 350ºF. If it still appears moist along the center, cover loosely with foil to avoid further browning and bake for another 10 minutes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Spring Issue 2011

The Spring issue of the LCBO's Food & Drink Magazine is out!

My local LCBO now opens at 9:30 am and guess who was first in line to snatch up the new glossy?

After the Holiday Issue, this is probably my favourite. Not so much because of the expected great recipes, but for what it represents. The Spring issue gives hope that winter is ending and with it goes all this snow! With a snow fall warning in effect as we speak, I need all the 'uplifting' I can get.

Some inclusions did seem out of place though. I suppose someone at the magazine is VERY keen to move winter along when I find myself reading about wild leeks (ramps) and rhubarb! The Early Summer issue is coming out on April 27 and it struck me that What's Fresh For Dinner by Lucy Waverman may have been better suited for contemplation in 7 weeks time. Where does one find a wild leek in March??? Bless her for getting us juiced up.

I still found plenty of fresh recipes to get me thinking about spring and the brighter days ahead.

  • Sweet Pea Risotto Cake with Prosciutto Mascarpone Mousse (From Spring Fling by Christopher St. Onge)
  • Lobster Thermidor in Parmesan Phyllo Baskets (From Making The Most of Mustard by Marilyn Bentz-Crowley)
  • Pecan Bourbon Carrot Cake (From Carrots Take The Cake by Monda Rosenberg)
  • Spring Pea Soup with Toasted Almonds + Savoury Bacon Biscuits with Herb Butter (From Fun Family Brunch by Jennifer MacKenzie and Cobi Ladner)
  • Almond Oil Cake (From Untried But True by Christopher St. Onge)
I was nervous to see Whoopie Pies tucked into the pages. I hear it is the new cupcake. Yikes! Imagine Whoopie Pie stores popping up like dandelions all around town.

GOOD NEWS: Crate and Barrel's companion store, CB2 is coming to Toronto in the spring to the corner of Bathurst and Queen St. West.

Check out Natalie MacLean's Spring Wine & Cheese article where she pairs Chilean whites with some great cheeses. You will also want to brush up on the solid advice given for Hosting A Wine and Cheese.

The Spring Playlist is again by Rick Shurman and Earl Torno and available for purchase. They appear to have a continued fondness for Diana Krall, which I fully endorse! They included her Isn't This a Lovely Day? and I've Got You Under My Skin. Other favourites for me are Norah Jones, Boz Scaggs, Van Morrison and The Chieftains, and Eric Clapton.

Pick up your copy right away. Let it be your power play for getting out of this long winter alive!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Homemade Edgar-esque Panini

When I couldn't get to Edgar in Hull today for lunch, I ended up making my own Edgar-esque panini to satisfy my appetite:

Art-is-in Boulangerie
Dynamite bread (Roasted Garlic and Rosemary) with goat cheese, perfectly ripe avocado slices, roasted red pepper slices, vine-ripe tomato slices, red onion slivers, fresh cilantro leaves, toasted pine nuts and chipotle mayo with chives.

I have had some unforgettable paninis at Edgar and one very similar to this before. As I loaded on the goodies, it was hard to stop. Pine nuts? Perhaps a bit unconventional but it was actually good!

I thought about my hopeful lunch trip to Edgar all morning. I knew I was going to have a panini. I often chose soup. I was imagining the warm, crunchy bread and the oozing flavours all piled in together. There would be cheese of some sort. Vegetables of some sort. And some flavour that kicked. Maybe a protein. Maybe not. Whatever Marysol put together, it would be all Edgar. By 2 o'clock I knew I wasn't going to make it.

Sometimes when you get fixated on an outcome, you miss the so very obvious. It finally dawned on me that I would have Edgar at home. Now I am no Marysol when it comes to her prowess with food stocks, but I was willing to give it a whirl.

This rescue lunch likely would not have been possible except for the fact that the teenager is back in the house for a few months. Our fridge and freezer are well stocked and on the ready for whatever that hungry appetite might throw at them 24/7. His recently gifted panini grill has also amped up what creations might come out of the kitchen.

Thanks to the teenager, here is some of our regular fare that we have on hand:

  • Art-is-in Boulangerie Dynamite bread pre-cut to panini size and ready for assembly
  • Roasted red peppers individually wrapped

  • Red onion
  • Vine-ripe tomatoes

  • Goat cheese
  • Mayonnaise

The ingredients that ended up 'making' the sandwich included leftovers from other cooking experiences over the past week.

We happened to have on hand:
  • Toasted pine nuts leftover from last night's dinner party
  • A number of perfectly ripe avocados
  • Chipotle peppers and sauce leftover from chili night
  • Fresh cilantro leftover from chili night
  • Chives leftover from last night's dinner party
Marysol's Edgar was pure inspiration today but there is no fear that my own panini miscellany will stop me from making that drive over the river when I can. My panini was great, but hers are better. And I am willing to succumb to the temptation of her mini treats and that wonderful cup of Cha Yi tea every time.
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