Monday, May 23, 2011

4th Annual Rampfest

The ramp season was a bit later this year because of the much cooler spring. But ramp enthusiasts patiently waited for the tender greens to reach their prime. Also referred to as the spring onion, wild leek or wild garlic, this spring plant peaks in May. Both the tender greens and the bulb are edible. The greens will eventually die off, so they are best as new shoots.

We have enjoyed ramps for a few years now but our harvest is always in Ontario and done on properties with permission. Picking ramps in Quebec is illegal since the Quebec government declared ramps an endangered species in 1995. So no surprise that there is now a black market. Not only are pickers skulking about in the middle of the night in La Belle Provence, poachers are also trespassing on Ontario properties where ramps are growing abound. Ramps can be over-harvested, thus ruining the ramp bed. Conscientious pickers will limit their harvest to less than a third of the clump.

I have heard that a single ramp stem can sell for as much as $1. This makes the black market business very lucrative. Certainly quick money for the month of May.

The Ottawa Citizen published an article recently on this ramp fever.

Again this year we were hosted by good friends at the 4th Annual Rampfest. The crowd of 40 some not only enjoy ramps, they enjoy good food and good company.

All dishes, except for the desserts, have ramps incorporated into them in some fashion. Some brought tried and true favourites, while others tried their hand at a new creation. No matter what dish we had, none of us seemed to grow weary of the allium tricoccum bounty.


Pickled Ramps

Ramp, Bacon, Olive & Sun-dried Tomato Bread

Ramp Frittata

Bacon Ramp Terrine with Beef, Foie Gras & Mushrooms

Maritime Seafood Chowder with Double Smoked Bacon & Ramps

Bouillabaisse Terrine with Ramp Rouille

Ramp Stuffed Chicken Thighs

Ramp Focaccia

Ramp Focaccia

Gambas with Ramps and Gnocchi

Ramp Lasagna

Chorizo with Pickled Ramps


Ramp & Maple Syrup Marinated Beef Tenderloin with Ramp & Horseradish Mayo

Salmon Poached in White Wine & Ramp Leaves

Ramp & Cucumber Salad

German Potato Salad with Ramp Dressing

*** DESSERTS ***

4-Biter World Famous Butter Tarts [recipe included here]

Toffee Pudding

Carrot Cake

Cheeses with Ramp Jelly & Fruit [no picture]

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie - Most Favourite Dessert for Cottage Time

We had the privilege of visiting with friends at their beautiful rustic cottage for part of this May long weekend. When asked what to bring, the directive given, "Please bring a dessert and then whatever you would like to drink."

Our host is a dessert hound, but in particular a pie guy. In May there is only one pie that suits a cottage invitation by our measure and that is the strawberry rhubarb pie. My 11 pound supply of rhubarb is dwindling but I had no problem filling this pie.

A 90 minute drive and then a 10 minute boat ride to the island is not conducive to bringing along ice cream as a side. Happily, this pie stands well on its own as it bursts out a bold, full fruit, tangy taste explosion.

pastry adapted from Joy of Cooking, filling adapted from Canadian Living

Servings: 8

2 cups all-purpose flour (I use 5 Roses)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup lard (I use Tenderflake)
1/4 cup water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons tapioca

3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced

3 cups rhubarb, chopped

Sprinkle of lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter

Sift flour and salt together in a bowl.

Remove 1/3 cup of this mixture and place it in a small bowl or cup.

Stir water into it to form a smooth paste. (I usually add the water to this small bowl of flour after I have cut in the lard, in order to keep it moist.)

Cut lard into the flour mixture in the first bowl with a pastry blender until the grain is the size of small peas. It works best when the lard is still chilled and not fully at room temperature.

Stir the flour paste into the dough. Work it with your hand until well incorporated and the dough forms a ball. It is important not to over work the dough or it will become tough.

Wrap the ball in saran wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Stir sugar and tapioca together in a small bowl. I have always preferred tapioca as the thickener for this fruit blend. I feel it suits a tangy zingy taste and an extra juicy fruit. Mix strawberries and rhubarb together in a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice - no more than 1 teaspoon. Lemon juice is great for 'brightening; fresh fruit. Toss to coat. Pour sugar mixture over the fruit. Toss to coat.

Roll out half of the pastry and fit into 9-inch pie plate. [I roll out my pastry between two pieces of waxed paper that is very lightly floured. This minimizes overworking and prevents it from becoming dry from over-flouring.] Prick the bottom of the pie shell and also the sides. This prevents the bottom shell from puffing up during baking.

Spoon fruit into pie crust and work it well together as to minimize the air pockets. This will allow the top crust to sit on top nicely. Using approximately 1 tablespoon of very soft butter, place small dots of butter all over the top of the filling.

With warm water, wet the edge of the bottom pie shell. This will help the top crust adhere to the bottom crust, making a tighter seal. This particular pie can be very leaky because of the very juicy filling.

Roll out remaining pastry and fit over top of pie. Press the top crust to the bottom on the moistened edge. If fluting the edge, trim it first. If using a fork pattern around the edge, then trim after it has been forked.

Cut vents in top for steam to escape. A large hole in the centre is particularly helpful for this pie since it is a very juicy filling and creates a lot of steam when it is baking.

Bake on baking sheet in 425ºF oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375ºF. Bake for 35 minutes longer or until golden and filling is bubbly.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote

A favourite spring breakfast for us is a wee bowl of plain yogurt, rhubarb and strawberry compote, and a topping of gourmet granola.

Our regular yogurt is Western Plain Yogurt 2%.

Our granola is either from Bridgehead Coffeehouse or Siren Bakery.

Our rhubarb and strawberry compote is homemade, thanks to the bounty shared by dear friends, Helen and Merrill. Because we have kept the ingredient list simple, the rhubarb stands out with all the pow that emanates from this full-flavoured stalk.

I can't get enough of it.

Modified from a recipe by Canadian Living

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 strip orange rind
1 cup strawberries, diced
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, optional

Heat sugar and water together in the top pot of the double boiler but directly on heat. Once it starts to boil, add the 6 cups of chopped rhubarb and stir. Then place over a double boiler pot that has water already heated. Add the orange rind and the cinnamon. Maintain a steady gentle boil with the water until the rhubarb softens. This takes about 20 minutes.

Once the rhubarb is soft and juicy, transfer the contents to a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the compote has the desired thickness. I prefer it to be pudding-like and I do not want to use a thickening agent, like flour or cornstarch. Boiling out a lot of the liquid, plus the sugar will help to thicken it. I usually simmer it for at least another 20 minutes.

Once it is to the consistency you prefer, take it off the heat, discard orange rind and add the diced strawberries. Because they are small enough, they will just cook through from the heat of the rhubarb. I like to add this bit of strawberries because it brings a beautiful red colour to the compote. Let it cool before storing it in a sealed container in the fridge.

We love this compote on plain yogurt with a sprinkle of gourmet granola. Very refreshing!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Four-Biter World Famous Butter Tarts

One Sunday last fall I went into the kitchen with the sole purpose of perfecting Canada's icon of pastry - the butter tart. I studied a number of acclaimed recipes and established what I thought was the winning ingredients and their appropriate proportions.

Recently, I received an unexpected correspondence from out of the country. A Canadian ex-pat had tried the recipe and brought the tarts into work to indoctrinate this foreign colleagues in the ways of Canadiana. He said they were instantly won over. Hence, my now 'world famous' status.

Why do I tell you this story? Today my oldest brother ('family obituary librarian') told me that Oliver Rohrer died on May 13th. He was 90. What Oliver knew about butter tarts I am not too sure. But his brother's wife, Doris, sure did.

As a very young girl, I often went to visit Doris at the farm next door, knowing she was an avid and active baker. She was also very giving of her wares to young, adoring fans. I never disappointed her and always accepted her offerings. The most frequent treat seemed to be butter tarts. I had never had them before and I thought they were pure heaven.

She really was the impetus of my life long search for butter tart perfection. I might think I now own the recipe to most 'world famous', but in my heart I know neighbour Doris reigns supreme.


pastry adapted from The Joy of Cooking, filling inspired by many
Yields 12 muffin sized tarts

2 cups all-purpose flour (I use 5 Roses)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Tenderflake lard
1/4 cup water

Sift flour and salt together in a bowl.

Remove 1/3 cup of this mixture and place it in a small bowl or cup.

Stir water into it to form a smooth paste. (I usually add the water to this small bowl of flour after I have cut in the lard, in order to keep it moist.)

Cut lard into the flour mixture in the first bowl with a pastry blender until the grain is the size of small peas. It works best when the lard is still chilled and not fully at room temperature.

Stir the flour paste into the dough. Work it with your hand until well incorporated and the dough forms a ball. It is important not to over work the dough or it will become tough.

Wrap the ball in saran wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out 1/2 the pastry dough between two sheets of wax paper that have been very lightly floured.

Cut circles using a yogurt container. This is a little over 4" wide but works well for a standard 2 3/4" muffin tin. You should be able to get 4 circles from this first dough.

Once in the pan, prick the bottom and sides of the shell with a fork. Repeat with the other 1/2 of the dough. Collect up the scraps of dough from the first two rolls and there should be enough for 4 more shells. 12 in total.

1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cream
1 large egg, room temperature
96 raisins
6 tablespoons of chopped walnuts

Do not combine the filling until all the pie shells are in the tart pans and prepared. Add 8 raisins and 1/2 tablespoon of chopped walnuts to each shell.

Combine butter, sugar and salt together. Add maple syrup, vanilla and cream. Beat. Add the egg and beat well.

Move quickly to divide the filling evenly among the 12 tarts. Approximately 2 big spoonfuls in each tart, filling 3/4 of the way.

Put in a 450ºF preheated oven on center rack for 9 minutes. Then reduce the oven to 350ºF and continue to bake for just 4 more minutes. Watch them very closely as not to over bake. Let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes to set before removing them from the pan. Let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

Some tarts may be deemed 'structurally unstable' if the crust for that tart is just too flaky. They must be eaten right away! With a small fork or spoon, of course. You will marvel at the number of 'civil engineers' that come crawling out of the woodwork to make this declaration!

The tarts freeze well. If they last that long.


Neighbour Doris made mini butter tarts. I make a four-biter.






CHEF'S TIP: When I bake mini tarts, I put 5 raisins per tart (usually no nuts) and I bake them on pure convection at 425ºF for 10 minutes.

Can Canned Salmon Be a $12 Sandwich? The Mister Says 'Yes!'

One of the challenges of working out of your home is that the 'cafeteria' can sometimes be lacking. Lacking in ingredients. Lacking in imagination. Lacking in staff.

The dream come true is to pull yourself away from the desk, stroll to the kitchen and find that your bistro lunch awaits. Well that didn't happen for me today but it was the pleasure the mister experienced. I decided to scrounge for the ingredients. I channeled my imagination. I volunteered to be that staff.

And voilà! Two open-faced sandwiches of toasted Art-is-in Boulangerie Dynamite Cheddar, Chive and Jalapeño baguette. Blanketed in thin slices of perfectly ripened avocado. Slathered with a salad of canned salmon loaded with real mayonnaise, ramps and gerkins. Then topped with a homemade preserve of red pepper and peach relish.

For this, I charged him $12 + tax!

The $12 Canned Salmon Sandwich

1 three-inch piece of Art-is-in Boulangerie Dynamite Cheddar, Chive and Jalapeño baguette, thawed, cut in half and toasted
1 can of salmon, deboned and drained
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 ramp leaf and bulb, very finely chopped
2 gerkins, very finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 ripe avocado, sliced
Red Pepper and Peach Relish

Cover the two toasted halves of bread with avocado slices.

Combine the salmon, mayonnaise, ramps, and gerkins. Adjust the ingredients to your taste. Lightly salt and pepper. There is enough salad to generously cover 4 open-faced sandwiches.

Top each open-faced sandwich with a teaspoon of red pepper and peach relish.

Arrange artfully on a contemporary bistro-styled plate. Provide a linen napkin. Serve with love!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Art-is-in Boulangerie's Dynamite Cheddar, Chive & Jalapeño Baguette

The salty cheese flavour and the heat from the chili peppers drew us to Art-is-in Boulangerie's Dynamite Cheddar, Chive & Jalapeño Baguette on first bite.

However, when fresh bakery bread is NOT loaded with preservatives, how do you enjoy that fresh bakery taste with every bite? This is a common problem for a small family.

Luckily for us, when the temptation arises, we have been enjoying our favourite Art-is-in Boulangerie Dynamite baguette at a moment's notice. We have found that the bread freezes very well, and we like having a sandwich portion on the ready to just toast up with butter and jam or to transform into a veggie packed panini.

Let me share with you how we maximize our Art-is-in Boulangerie Dynamite baguette experience right here at home.

The 2 foot loaf is $5.00 + tax. If I am lucky to pick up a stick at the end of the day, I only pay half price.

As soon as I get it home, I divide the stick into 8 pieces, tuck it into a freezer bag, release the air, then slip it into the freezer. Each sandwich portion works out to be approximately 70 cents - 35 cents if you were able to get the loaf at half price! Either way, it's a good price for a quality 3" x 5" slice of Art-is-in.

A piece thaws quickly on the counter. I wait to cut it in half just before using as this keeps it at its freshest.

If I am going to toast it first, I use the 'Bagel' setting on my toaster. This allows for an even toasting on the inside and a gentle warming on the outside. I want to be careful not to burn that cheesy goodness.

Is it worth it to put in the extra effort up front? You bet! It guarantees us a fresh baked experience with every bite! It ends up being a great solution for our small family.

  • Shop at Art-is-in Boulangerie the hour before closing (5 - 6 pm), and buy bread at half price, if you are willing to gamble on selection
  • Freeze loaf right away. Well, maybe after sampling! (freezes very well and also thaws very quickly).
  • Before freezing, slice bread into eight 3" sections to have sandwich-size portions on the ready anytime
  • Cut sandwich portion in half just before using in order to maximize freshness
  • Toast using the Bagel setting - this toasts the inside and warms the cheesy outside
  • Prepare with love and inhale
  • Green tip: Keep emptied freezer bag in the freezer and refill when a new loaf comes home
  • Repeat
Do you have a favourite Art-is-in Boulangerie bread?

Art-is-in Boulangerie
250 City Center Avenue, unit 112 (access from Scott St., just west of Preston)
Ottawa, Ontario
Facebook: Art-is-in Bakery
Twitter: ArtisinBakery

Mon: Closed
Tues to Fri: 7 am - 6 pm
Sat: 8 am - 4 pm
Sun: 10 am - 3 pm

Art Is in Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother’s Day – Or Not So Happy

Mothers Day. All so perfect and joyous and full of jubilation.

And why all this fuss?

Celebrating the miracle of birth and the power of parenting has been a Hallmark holiday for as long as I can remember. A big deal job by anybody’s standards. A time to show thanks and recognition. It is a day showered with gestures of pampering - starting perhaps with breakfast in bed, some reprieve from chores, and for the most lucky, flowers and gifts of sorts. In fact, some think of today as the most celebrated eating out day of the year.

The colours are spring-like in their hues of red, pink, yellow, orange and green. The colours of happy.

But for some women, today is a harsh reminder of a Not So Happy Mother’s Day.

They are women who longed for life in their womb and know they will remain barren.

They are women grieving the loss of a child, buried far too early into their short life.

They are women celebrating their own children but so missing their own mothers, who have since left this world.

They are women wondering who it was that gave them life, never to be connected with their birth mom.

They are women hoping that adoption really was the best choice, trying to visualize that happy, loving new home.

They are women wondering what went wrong and why they would be deserving of any praise, for surely they are to blame.

They are women who will not be hearing from their child today as they have chosen a lonelier life, estranged from the family.

Enjoy your very happy Mother’s Day, but know for some around you, they are marking the passage of time with a heavy, aching heart. For those women, I celebrate my special day with humility, respect and hopefully, empathetic understanding.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bistro St-Jacques - And I'm Back

As I was transfixed on the warm memories of the past four hours, the drive back from Hull to Westboro tonight was reasonably uneventful. Stopped at an intersection, I eventually received a love-tap honk from the car behind. I was just sitting there waiting for the light to change, so what was all the fuss? Thankfully their noisy nudge woke me from my dreamy state, reminding me that I was actually at a 4-way stop! The inattention was a bit worrisome, I suppose. But I was being held hostage by reminiscence of my night out with the book club gals - the good food, great conversation and the regaling of lively stories of loves, dated wedding plans and party scandals. We have a way of knitting ourselves together in emotional solidarity.

The setting this evening that catalyzed and abetted my mind-fog was none other than Bistro St-Jacques at 51 rue St-Jacques in Hull.

Tonight was my third visit to BSJ in the past 6 months. When I first read about this 'gem' of a place in Ottawa Magazine's Top Ten List for 2010 - Where To Eat Right Now, I knew I had to try it. I was intrigued by Shawna Wagman's 'new secret crush'. How had I not heard of it? Having won me over on the first visit, I like to come back with others when I want a place guaranteed to please an array of palates and also able to suit an occasion of celebration. I happily pick this place knowing that the service here is highly attentive, efficient and most of all, unintrusive. With 9 distracted ladies moving and bobbing tonight, that was no easy feat.

As I re-read Shawna's article, I realized I do agree with her on one major compliment for BSJ. "..its calm, relaxed attitude and generous French classic fare that, in expert hands, will always feel special."

To speak to the power of the group dynamic and the escapism of the place, I felt no temptation to check in with the outside world. It wasn't until we hit the streets to go home that I was reminded of potentially historic events unfolding with our 41st federal election. Perhaps when Shawna says "it’s like being in France without the cost of the flight", I should give credence to her claim.

It is just that kind of place.

[My sins of the evening.]

Amuse bouche. [As well, the warm bread was flowing.]

Market inspired soup - Cauliflower and fennel veloute. [Appetizer special for the evening.]

Warm salad with goat cheese and duck confit. [Appetizer special for the evening.]

Scallops, rock crab and corn salsa, garlic confit, sweet pea and cilantro mousse. [From appetizer menu.]

2009 Alsace, Domaine Marcel Deiss, France [Shared!!]

Amaretto and chocolate marble cheescake with roasted nut crust.

[I stole a taste of my neighbour's dessert.] Star anise crème brûlée with pear, currant coulis, and fresh fruits.

Bistro St-Jacques
51, rue St-Jacques
Gatineau, Quebec

Mon to Fri: 11:30 am - 2:30 pm

Mon to Sat: 5 pm - 10 pm

Bistro St-Jacques on Urbanspoon
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