vendredi 7 septembre 2018

Onion maggots - part II

It's funny. Part of the problem is so human. We want to arrange the plants together so that they fit in place, in a row, in a square. It there were more artistry, if the leeks were scattered in a thicket of marigolds and radishes, if they weren't so gathered together so they are ready to 'catch' something, like wildfire, they would have survived. If my garden were a Jackson Pollack, I would be eating leek confit right now.

mercredi 29 août 2018

Onion maggots, aphids, and cucumber beetles

Usually it's flea beetles that bring us frustration. I would go out into the garden and shake up my mustard greens and watch them all jump.
We moved last year and that changed. I see far fewer of them, and I no longer see an entire bed wiped out by them.  No, in fact I have new pests. New friends to take care of. New vegetables to harvest early or to watch dissapear. Onion maggots ate all my leeks. Aphids of all things, too.
Should I be happy that these little guys are eating as though a cute little rabbit came along for a bite. I would be happy to feed a cute little rabbit. So, why does it bother me to feed these little insects - they have to eat too. 
There is some hangup we have about bugs though. If I feed a rabbit, I am doing a good job regulating the ecosystem. If I feed an infestation of bugs, I am doing a poor job. It's a balance I suppose. Just gotta keep gardening, and start spacing out those leeks!

mercredi 15 juillet 2015

Wildflowers of Quebec in July: A Photo Essay

Hypericum Perforatum
St. John's Wort
 Wildflowers of Quebec in July: a photo essay
or excerpts from stories the flowers tell

Apocynum Androsaemifolium
Spreading Dogbane
Be bold, but not so bold as to need attention. Thoughtfulness is bold. Be proud to call the world your own. Write all your friends. They are always in your thoughts. Sometimes those that you need the most are far away, and the depth of loss you feel can be regained through a gift or a letter, but never a facebook post. Connection is so beautiful.

Silene Nivea
Evening Campion
I am a luminescent school of anchovies.
I am a choir of violas.
I am the candle lit spine of the ocean.
I am everyday.
I am the part behind your eyes.
I am strong in numbers.

Convolvulus Arvensis
Body dysmorphia.
low self esteem.
It's for the birds.

Prunella Vulgaris
In the morning, I will wake up and drink coffee on my balcony. I will pretend the neighbours don't see my half-naked body and take for granted that their presence gives me comfort, that the loneliness of a balcony is made better by the loneliness of another, that throughout the ages, we will wake and drink hot beverages on our balconies, alone and together, until it's over.

Cirsium Arvense
Fell asleep in the park but I kept my wallet stowed tightly in my thigh pocket. People will hurt you. They have that power. I don't ever want that to happen again.

Asclepias Syriaca
Be it a gust of wind or a symphony, let's play.

Krigia Virginica
Dwarf Dandelion
I remember the old times. They come to me like wild raspberries on the trail, or fireflies in the moonlight. I remember the feel of the sandy lake floor on my feet, the river water spilling out of the crisp parting of the mountains. I remember acres upon acres of being alone with you. 

Being quietly misunderstood is perhaps the noblest pursuit of them all.

 Achillea Millefolium
Choose to love. So much of your world is love. Open yourself up through small gestures, through caring. Sometimes a kind deed is the key to a reactionary love. However forced, it can lend itself to positivity and serenity, casually leaning
towards love. Before you know it, you are surrounded.

 Impatiens Capensis
Spotted touch-me-not
You are not just a brain, you are a body. Sleep. Feel your exhaustion upon you and rest your weary head.  Sleep. You can only control your thoughts, and even then, not very well. Sleep. Put it all away for a while. Let's sleep together.

 Vicia Cracca
Boreal Vetch
It's no big deal if you get a little wet.

lundi 20 avril 2015

A recipe

Take an ingredient in your hand,
Squeeze it tenderly.
Bring it to your nose
Smell its oils.
Feel its texture against your skin.
Put it on your tongue now.
Do not swallow.
Breathe in.
You have something now.

mardi 24 juin 2014

Simple Beginnings

 Buttered half lobster, barley cake, minted pea purée, red scallions

 Spring Parfait
Rhubarb foam, strawberries, granola

Trout Mousse
Asparagus, morels, chiffonade of mixed herbs

dimanche 30 mars 2014

Home cooking is back in style this season.

St. Urbain Choucroute Garnie

Authenticity isn't everything. At some point, every dish in the repertoire transcended the authentic nature of its regional history and became something new - perhaps even something classic. Surely mimicry, when it comes to art, should be at first considered a gesture of homage, rather than one of theft. Great art inspires us to make art, the same way money inspires rich people to make more money. Being poor though, brings about its own luxuries, rich in frugality and hopefully comfort food. The Alsatian choucroute garnie is a great example of this. It epitomizes the most comforting of food for the poorest of nights. I imagine the dish in all its rich regional diversity being favoured when the weather is similar to tonight's forecast - windy and cold. I imagine a dark Sunday's walk through town, chin nuzzled deep in scarf, hoping to be greeted at the end of the day by a loving partner in an odorous kitchen. It is good solid comfort food that nourishes with integrity - a fermented vegetable, a preserved meat, a root on the side. It's timeless.

Well, I don't have a ham hock, or any traditional German sausages. I don't have any smoked salt lard, or Alsatian white wine. I have a few of those 'Italian style' sausages you can get just about anywhere in Montreal, some apples, some sauerkraut, one potato, a few leftover mushrooms, an onion, and a little bit of leftover white wine. I can't remember where the wine came from, it must be at least a few month's old, but I think it'll do.

This is a dish best cooked with your shirt off, perhaps a beer in hand (certainly not the vinegar wine you're cooking with). Try not to wince if any frying oil speckles your chest. It will ruin the dish and your integrity.

Get a pan nice and hot, hotter than you usually do, in a little bit of vegetable oil, fry your onion chopped into rustic lengths. Be sure to let it burn just a little bit. You want that exciting moment for an onion to occur, when about half of it seems to be caramelizing and half of it isn't even translucent, when that occurs add your sausages and mushrooms to the pan. I think great big oyster mushrooms - cut once are beautiful for this, but you could use any mushroom.

Mushrooms and apples are not an authentic part of this dish, as you probably know. The thing about mushrooms is that they are the Ultimate 'capital 'U'' comfort food for me. I can't think of many comforting dishes that don't go well with a bit of fried fungi or a last minute glug of truffle oil. Think about all your favourite late night dishes - now think of them on mushrooms- you see?

When parts of your mushrooms are changing colour and your sausages begin to let out some juice, add your apple, roughly chopped. While apples might seem a bit of a sweet twist to a classic dish, I may remind you of today's date. It is March 30th today and so apples as we know them, no longer taste sweet. The chopped apples in this dish, even when caramelized, taste tart and mimic sauerkraut more than fruit.

When you get that sense that it's time to deglaze, do so. Do you know what I mean by that sense? That feeling is so real, isn't it? It's hard to describe. It's almost as though it starts to feel dry in the room. The ingredients in the pan whisper their intention to no longer caramelize and sweat, but burn. They warn you of your contingent failure. That's when you reward them by bathing them in wine.

When everything seems yummy and reduced, add your sauerkraut until it's warm and then season.
I'm a bit of a nerd that way. I really like the idea of eating all that tummy nurturing bacteria raw. I wouldn't cook it. It would be so negligent to throw away all that microscopic prep work. Bacteria is like your home-kitchen commis.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lots of freshly ground pepper and mustard.
You can use expensive mustard that comes with a wax seal or you can go my route, ninety nine cent dep dijon. I dare you to taste the difference.

vendredi 20 décembre 2013

La Carte d'hiver

 Chocolate Odyssey
Aerated Manjari, Jivara foam, caramel truffles, dark chocolate earth, almond white chocolate crumble

Coffee siphon sponge cake, mascarpone foam, amaretti and ladyfinger crumble, tiramisu ice cream

 Pouding Chomeur
Baked maple pudding,   vanilla, pecan, and maple butter ice cream

 Dessert aux pommes
Macintosh's sous-vides, 'orange wine' custard, caramelized almonds, sponge toffee, caramel ice cream

Pistachio cherry nougat, gingerbread leaves, pets de soeurs (caramel pinwheels), fruitcake, coffee truffles, house crunchie, oatmeal petals, ginger feulleté diamonds

samedi 30 novembre 2013

Last services at L'ITHQ part 2

 Charlotte à l'érable
Maple mousse, strawberry brunoise and purée, almond cake

 pear blueberry and almond cream tart, maple whipped cream and apple chip

Carrot cake, oranges, blood orange fruit jelly, caramelized walnut mousse

 Salade de fruits

La tropique
Passion fruit mousse, lemon mousse, mixed fruits

mercredi 27 novembre 2013

M F K Fisher on Polenta

Polenta costs little to prepare, if there is little to spend, or it can be extravagantly, opulently odorous with wines and such. It can be made doggedly, with one ear cocked for the old wolf's sniffing under the door, or it can be turned out as a well-nourished gesture to other simpler days. But no matter what conceits it my be decked with, its fundamental simplicity survives, to comfort our souls as our bellies, the way a good solid fugue does, or a warm morning in spring.

-M. F. K. Fisher. How to pray for peace

samedi 23 novembre 2013

Winter Catering II

 Butternut squash, sage oil, buttered croutons

 Mushroom tart
lemon pepper pâte brisée, truffled mushrooms, gruyere Mornay

 Warm winter salad
Roast parsnips, wilted spinach, feta, capers, beet foam

 Lamb Ragout arancino, ratatouille

Pumpkin cake, caramel mousse, maple whipped cream, gingerbread, sponge toffee

mercredi 20 novembre 2013

Final Services at l'ITHQ part I

 Passion fruit mousse, milk chocolate cream, mixed fruits

 Carrot cake, carrot tuile, spiced whipped cream

 Pear tart, sesame nougatine, strawberries

chocolate covered praline mousse, roasted hazlenuts, iced coffee and whipped cream

dimanche 3 novembre 2013

More Pie

 Brandied Mince meat tart

Brandy, currants, yellow red and Thompson raisins, candied citrus peel, demerara feuilleté and vanilla ice cream

Cranberry Chess pie

sweet butter custard, fresh cranberries, gingerbread feulleté, and pumpkin pie ice cream

dimanche 13 octobre 2013

On the seperation of eggs and state of mind.

Please, bring back Home Economics in our schools!

When you buy a new tool for your kitchen, what kind of questions do you ask yourself?
Do you ask something like, `Will I use this? If so, how often? where will I put it?' Or do you ask, 'will this utensil change my life?'

It is time for change. This isn't just about trimming the fat off your kitchen. It's time to change the way home cooks think about kitchen tools altogether. We must educate ourselves so we can better the culinary market place. We need greater standards for kitchen stores in Canada. Too many gadgets that get thought up these days are silly excuses for innovation. When you buy a tool for your kitchen it ought to do everything and it ought to last.

This would be an easier feat if the capitalist market didn't prey on the very ignorance our changing educational system promotes. We fail to teach basic home cookery to young people which means that ignorant citizens are preyed on by the capitalist agenda. Granite rolling pins, garlic presses, and glass baking pans are all good examples of this phenomenon.

When you go into a kitchen store to buy a soft spatula, there are many to choose from. There are plastic white ones, wooden ones with removable tops, rubber, or silicone, who knows! So many spatulas with varying makes, materials and prices. Why do so many spatulas exist? So that they can charge more for better spatulas. If they only made great spatulas and decided to stop making terrible spatulas, the price of a good spatula would become less, because consumers wouldn't have the price of terrible spatulas to compare them to. The production of spatulas would become more efficient because we would only create one type of spatula and humanity's continued elevation would strengthen. Bad spatulas would be left behind, a relic of the early human ages.
The only spatula worth having is the one with a red handle. That type of spatula is a tool that does everything. It scrapes better than other spatulas, it is generally thicker and better made, but more importantly, it can handle extremely high temperatures without difficulty, which makes it the ultimate tool for anything from caramel to chocolate, or scraping the bottom of a pot while you poach a crème anglaise. It is a stick with a paddle on it and yet it is the tool of an elevated species.

Humans have an amazing capacity for imagining up tools. With the creation of the vaccuum packer, chefs created an entirely new mode of cookery. From compressed fruits, to flavoured salts, super slow poached meats, and gelatinous eggs. One discovery led to another, coupled with enhanced freshness and convenience, the tool itself became a staple and in some aspects the saviour of fine dining restaurants. Vaccuum packers also unfortunately come in varying qualities and prices. Like the spatula market, the sous-vide marketplace is a dangerous one. It seems to me that offering a cheap and poor alternative to the real thing is a sort of trickery. Companies try to get consumers to buy cheap tools when they can't afford better ones, but they usually work poorly and break easily.

I think that we can relate this whole phenomenon to the very idea of the tool itself. If you ask any chef what the most important tool is in a kitchen, they will tell you that it's a knife. A common chef's knife or a paring knife, depending on personal preference. No professional chef will tell you that it's their bread knife, their boning knife, their filleting knife or their cleaver, and yet, when we are faced with buying knives for a home, kitchen shops push knife sets and blocks. Who the hell wants a knife set and a block to dull their edges? As if home knives weren't blunt enough - lets rub the edge against a piece of wood daily, to really make it impossible to cut a tomato without it bursting to a pulp.
One knife - one good knife, that's all that is needed. You can do anything with that guy. If it's sharp and you know how to use it, it will cut. If you are concerned with seeming professional, consider the Chinese method of cookery. Consider the cleaver. One knife.
When partnered with that single piece of information, the task of stocking a kitchen is less daunting. The budget you have for your kitchen knives becomes the amount you can spend on one great knife - one single piece of metal all the way through the tool, nice and sharp, no block necessary - the humble beginnings of a perfect kitchen.

When you seperate an egg, do you use the shell? That shell is an important tool. It encapsulates every tiny egg and protects it. It can also be a cooking vessel, but it can also help you separate two bodies with differing properties.
Sure you can buy an egg seperator, but don't. It's a tool that is destined for the bargain bin at that grotty store on the corner. If you think you're Jaques Pepin and are truly concerned with the amount of egg white that escapes you into those buttery yellows, then be a romantic. Use a metal bowl and a clean hand. Every egg should be cracked into the bowl delicately to not disrupt the yolks, and delicately they should be taken out one by one, hand gently plunging into the slime you've gotten yourself into.
For me, the shell will do just fine.

Every tool should at least be as useful as that basic tool, that fundamental aspect of human brilliance, when knowledge and material create an advantage, an innovation. Why do we not want to teach our children the disadvantages and advantages of such equipment anymore? Surely something as ubiquitous as food preparation should be important to everyone.

I like to think that if we had a culinary-educated consumer body, we would have better kitchens period. I feel the same way about music. If young people learned about Stravinsky and Mahler in schools, would they still listen to Miley Cyrus? Perhaps for a lark. Perhaps everything from N' Sync to Robin thicke would wind up in Museums as well - distant memories of Humanity's early mistakes.

Please, bring back Home Economics in our schools!

dimanche 29 septembre 2013

Mulling over pumpkin

mull /mʌl/ vb
  1. (transitive) to heat (wine, ale, etc) with sugar and spices to make a hot drink

This Autumn was going to be the season of the Pie. 'Ne'er a day shall pass without pie on sill', thought I with the first maple leaf's fall. Clafoutis, apple pies, tartes aux pets de soeur, tarte au sucre, and pecan pie: I was going to do it all! If thanksgiving arrives and I don't have a perscription for insulin injections, I will have failed.

I became stuck on pumpkin. What of the pumpkin I thought? There are so many questions! So few answers!
Do I use fresh pumpkin? Most people think of canned pumpkin when they imagine their favourite pumpkin pie. Dark and dehydrated, made from the condensed flesh of the sweetest sugar pumpkin at their ripest moment. 'My mom's pie,' people think. Surely for the most concentrated flavour of pumpkin this is one's best choice, I thought. Then again, all that fresh and light subtlety that comes from fresh pumpkin would be lost. Symbolically too, that feeling of being one with the changing of the seasons, of marveling in the edible natural world that is closest to us, would be lost.

There are so many advantages to canned pumpkin. It's so robust in flavour that one can mull the mix with much more spice than with fresh pumpkin. The filling is far more likely to set after cooking too. Whether or not the gelification of a pumpkin pie should be a gamble, it can sometimes feel that way as it leaves the oven. There is something so coquettish about the jiggle of that pie!
To be frank, processing a fresh pumpkin can feel like a lot of hard work too! Cleaver it into pieces, roast it, de-flesh it, purée it, pass it through a sieve and reserve it. It sounds like too much work for a quick bit of pie.

The trick I think, is to make a lot of it. Make a lot of it at once and freeze it. Yes pumpkin keeps brilliantly on your kitchen table, but when you're going to make pumpkin pie, do a lot at once and forget about the centre piece. Reap the benefit of your labour through season-wide pie. Because after all the work is done, I honestly believe it makes better pie. Used properly, fresh pumpkin purée makes five star pie. If you catch that perfect balance in freshness, richness, spice, aroma, gourdiness, custardiness and umami, you've transcended your mom's pie, and the world will now remember your pie as the classic.

If you've never tried making fresh pumpkin pie, and think it might be too much work, YOLO.

Pie crust: thick or thin?
Make your crust really thin, but then pinch lots of dough around the edges, this way the top of the crust will take as long as the pie will to cook and it won't burn. Also, everyone loves pie crust.

Here are some tips for processing great pumpkin:

Cleave the pumpkin in two equal parts so that it has a hat, scoop out the seeds and plant them in your garden (just don't tell Monsanto). Put it in the oven, flesh side down on a tray with a piece of parchment. This way, the skin side will roast and the inside will steam itself, Once the pumpkin is cooked, turn it over and continue to roast it until the water has evaporated and the pumpkin is roasted (quite brown).
Roast the pumpkin A LOT! Al dente is not the idea here. We're trying to create something that will set in a custard with other wet ingredients so water is your enemy.
Purée the pumpkin hot! The fibres will break down more easily if they are hot and unstable.
Before you try and pass the pumpkin purée through a sieve, let it sit in a super fine sieve first and let it drip out all its water. This water can be discarded, or you can drink it (It's delicious). I've never tried chilling it, but I imagine it would be really refreshing.
If you have a food mill, that will be much faster and less annoying than passing the pumpkin through a normal sieve. You can put it back in the super fine sieve afterwards, to drip out more water. You don't have to but I do because I'm a maniac.
Finally, cool completely.

Eggs or egg yolks?
Eggs and egg yolks. Go on, throw an egg yolk in there! It's the Holidays!

I feel like mulling spices make up the most complex of my flavour memories. Those two words take me to so many places in my mind: that old fashioned donut I ate in the north-end of Edmonton. Mulled wine at Kate and Brett's in the winter. Thanksgiving dinner always included a pumpkin pie in my household growing up. Chai lattés steaming the all-too donutty air of Chez Boris. What would park-ex be without garam masala?

It is delicate and daunting, but the balance between a slew of spices cannot be overlooked when making your pie. Too much cinnamon overpowers everything and turns the mind to apple pie, which is surely not your intention. Too much clove and you burn people's nostrils till they pass out. They'll wake up 30 seconds later in a stupor wondering when they sucked on that active fuse. Too much allspice or star anise, and your pumpkin pie tastes like licorice. Omit dried ginger and people become confused. I've heard of people staying true to their morals and using fresh ginger in their pie. This seems a bit overzealous, besides which, ground ginger is also the flavour that rounds it all out in my mind. The flavour that most intrigues next to pumpkin.

There should be lots of nutmeg. I don't have a good reason for that one, it's just an obsession.

Even with the addition of aromatics such as cardamom, allspice, or anise, I still think that a touch of vanilla is necessary. It just uplifts the flavour profile from this resiny, brooding place, to something exciting that pops in your mouth while it soothes. It just works. It connects the world of custard to the spicy world of the trees. It is the emulsifier of heaven and pie.

Finally, you have to taste the pumpkin! The amount of all of these spices should be so slight. For this reason, it works best to prepare your mulling mix in advance and only use a small portion of it at a time. Don't worry, it won't go to waste (see above: garam masala, etc.) All of the flavours have to tease your palette. No one flavour should pop more than the others, they should be caressing your tongue so lightly you forget they're there and just relax. Pumpkin pie is about relaxation. Pumpkin pie is about pumpkin.

My recipe for mulling spices (pumpkin pie spice) is as follows.

8.5 ml cinnamon (not fresh, nor freshly ground)
7.5 ml ground ginger (not fresh, nor freshly ground)
3/4 whole nutmeg (grated)
2.5 ml clove (fresh)
2.5 ml allspice (fresh)
1 to 2 ml peppercorn (fresh)

I use about a half a tea of this mix for a big pie alongside 1/8 tea pure vanilla extract. If you don't follow the indications for freshly ground or powder, the recipe would be completely different.
Cream or Evap?
Cream. Evaporated milk is great and all, but again, five star pie or your mom's pie?

Then what of consistency? Do I want a pumpkin custard, a pumpkin cream? perhaps a pumpkin curd? Do I precook the shell, or cook it with the pie? All of these questions are great, but they cause one to loose track of what's important. Pumpkin pie is a ritual. If you want to fold pumpkin purée into whipped cream and dress a precooked pie shell with it, go ahead. It will be delicious, but is it really pumpkin pie? What makes pumpkin pie unique is the resistance pumpkin gives to an oven custard. The addition of pumpkin makes it possible to cook a custard for a long time in a shell of flaky pâte brisée! It's an incredible thing. It makes for a rich flavourful custard with a unique texture that is really hard to mess up. It's how millions of Americans like their pie and it's ten million times better than flan.

vendredi 27 septembre 2013



 Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon curd, burnt Italian meringue, basil sorbet

Blueberry Pie
 Blueberry curd, blueberry jelly, fresh blueberries, vanilla icecream 


 Gateau Jaunemont
Peaches, vanilla, caramel

Raspberry pile pie
Almond cream, fresh raspberries, raspberry jelly

Tarte Tropézienne à la gadelle
Crème diplomate, pâte briochée, gelée de gadelle, crumble

Rhubarb feulleté
Rhubarb compote, fresh puff pastry, burnt lemon marshmallows, strawberry sorbet

Pause café
chocolate bitter almond cake, coffee cream, chocolate pearls

Midnight Clafouti
Concord grapes, blueberries, custard

samedi 16 mars 2013

Sugar me off.

Crêpes soufflées
 Sarrasin, sirop d'érable

 Tartelettes au sucre
Pâte sucrée à l'érable, lait évaporé, Sortilège, sirop d'érable

Truffes 'Sortilège'
 Chocolat 'Force Noir', Sortilège, sirop d'érable


Beignes à l'érable
 Beignes d'érable frit au gras de canard, imbibés de sirop d'érable


Pets de sœurs
Pâte brisée à l'érable, sortilège, cannelle, caramel