Category Archives: essentials

Energizing Rainbow Vegetable Broth Recipe

‘Eat a Rainbow’ we hear more and more often from doctors when they refer to the variety of vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables to include in our diets to give our immune system the benefit of a range of antioxidants. This simple rainbow broth that you can start or finish your day with or just drink throughout the day will for sure help to strengthen the immune system and help combat winter fatigue and melancholy.  With this year’s never-ending severe winter, I am taken by Japanese traditional types of breakfast, which has actually led to many experiments with different kind of stocks and broths, hence this particular post is all about starting your day with a trendy sip of warm broth (with uber healthy alkalizing and anti-inflammatory properties) instead of the usual and boring bowl of cold cereal. Most importantly, a few sips of this broth fill you up so well, the ”Hara Hachi Bu” (eat until you are 80 percent full), a famous Okinawans principle becomes really easy to follow…

This is our next morning Sunday Brunch photo: Rainbow Broth & Fried Sushi – What a Wonderful Marriage!

Well, may be except for this case, although the broth does help to stop devouring the sushi a bit earlier…

Another upside of this broth is that its vegan, easy to pull off and/or modify to your taste, and can be made either from scratch (on a budget) or to recycle the collection of the quality veggie’s scrap assuring a great range of essential nutrients. Excellent recipe to take a note of if you are going to detox, to fast during the lent, or to start taking better care of your lunches (absolutely awesome in combination with classic egg or tuna salad sandwich, for example). It is also a wonderful starting point for further interesting layering with other ingredients: from hot noodle/dumpling soups to cold soups with fresh veggies additions. 
The humble rainbow ingredients are: potato, leek, radish, celery, carrot, scallion, ginger, and beet: 
For and extra detox properties, flavor and kick, I also added kombu (kelp) seaweed, jalapeno, coriander and black peppercorn seeds:

And the last, but not least: cover the veggies with quality mineral/spring water.
The unusual variety of the stock ingredients gives it a unique light flavor with some Asian notes of ginger, seaweed and coriander. Radish makes definitely lighter touch than usual rutabaga/turnips while beet gives the broth a radiant ruby color and agreeable sweetness. The reconstituted wakame seaweed adds an extra comfort touch bringing the taste of broth closer to that of the Miso soup.
Stir in some quality fermented Miso paste and you are one step closer to the Japanese heaven:
 KILLER APP: Alternatively, collect the variety of any best quality vegetable scraps in your freezer (in Ziploc bag) until ready to use to make a stock.
For more further applications, feel free to exclude the beet ingredient and you will have a perfect vegan stock full of goodness, that you can bring to the next level as per my next post. In fact, this post was a prelude to the mystery dish I’m going to offer you next based on the vegan stock. Here’s the hint. Stay tuned.
Speaking of, Happy Chinese New Year, dear readers!

PS: SATURDAY AFTERNOON REPORT. This is what we just had (a day after me featuring the proverbial broth): the out of this world fried sushi I made last night on a wing, but was too tired to eat at midnight to avoid having my next visceral cauchemar… We just had them now for brunch, and LIFE CAN’T BE ANY MORE BEAUTIFUL. Viva Japanese breakfast!

  PS2: God, I need to start Instagram!

Two other major vegetarian must try recipes for this time of the year:
Yields: 2 generous or 4 small portions
1 potato with skin on, chopped
½ leek, chopped
1 carrot with skin on, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 beet with skin on, chopped*
1 radish with skin on, sliced
2 slices of fresh ginger
1 scallion, quartered
1 spring of parsley
1-2 pieces of dried kombu (kelp) seaweed (optional)
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tsp coriander seeds
8 black peppercorns (optional)
31/2 cups quality mineral/spring water
1 tbsp dried wakame seaweed to garnish (optional)
Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan, add the mineral water and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 1 ½-2 hours over low heat.
Remove the pan from the heat and strain the liquid. Discard the vegetables. Pour the broth into a heatproof resealable container. Add dried wakame seaweed and seal. Drink glassfuls of the broth throughout the day.
*Excluding the beet from the list of ingredients will deliver classic looking vegetarian stock as opposed to red-colored stock.
Adapted from: Healing Foods, DK Publishing, 2013

Candied Citrus Peel: Versatile Cooking Ingredient

One of my grandma’s signature preserves was a gooseberry jam with orange peel – a super delicious treat with a strong citrus identity you can never forget. ‘’Can we use orange peel with anything else?’’, I used to ask my mother repeatedly when a kid and she would say: ‘’I’m not sure, but it makes a good still life subject’’… My mother, folks… She was an artist and a kind of a cook who would think that an orangette is made of an apple slice soaked in Grand Marnier. However, her mantra was stuck in the back of my head; for years I’ve been buying a scentless commercial mixed peel the color of a landfill waste for my baking needs like zombie. Until one day I actually read the label, discovered that the major ingredient was not even a citrus peel but rutabaga + a bunch of chemicals… I found myself peeling oranges and slicing lemons in candied-citrus-peel frenzy. I was stunned how easy and inexpensive the method of making a candied peel was. Stupefied and aghast, I was looking at the results of my own fresh and zesty mixed peel wondering what took me so long to discover this treasure trick to do about the citrus waste.
Whoever made this discovery was a genius. For all I know now, people have been using candied citrus for a long-long time. It’s truly a four-season condiment, which is also extremely versatile in its applications. Who said the candied citrus peel is only for Christmas?
Easter is around the corner with candied fruit panettone, cross buns, kulich and tsoureki. But why waiting for it if you can have it right now in your lemon drizzle, chocolate or bundt cake, Eccles cakes (coming next and the actual reason I’m writing this post), raspberry bar cookies, granolas, and so many more… Not to mention the increasing array of cocktails and simple treats where this vivid essential comes to garnish vodka martini, citrus granita or lemon peel yogurt. Heck, I am even using it tonight to garnish the citrus roast chicken with mashed potatoes for my non-fasting party (we have another snow storm outside, so a citrus granita alone would not help much).
 And, of course, the famous Parisian dessert: les orangettes!
The orange peel candied in syrup infused with peppercorns, anise and vanilla pod and dipped in dark chocolate. Va-va-voom! So art deco and so Josephine Baker dance… 
A little recycling effort and here you are with a cup of coffee and a few of these decadent morsels transcending Canadian winter boundary straight into Paris in spring, somewhere between 6ème Saint-Germain-Des-Prés and La Maison du Chocolat. 
Finally, please don’t forget about the candied orange peel it when you make your next chocolate fondue…
As usually, I am saving some of my sweet teeth for the summer when I will have gooseberries back in my garden and will be canning them into my Grandma’s humble gooseberry jam along with these little orange shape-shifters for that one and only citrus kick. 
Not every citrus peel needs to be blanched three times. Below, I am giving you three different recipes for Candied Mixed Citrus Peel, the Orangettes and Candied Meyer Lemon Peel, respectively. Here are some general tips on making a candied citrus peel a success:
         * Boiling the peel and discarding the water 3 times is the key to remove bitterness from orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit peels.
         * Adding a bit of lemon juice to boiling syrup will help to prevent crystallization.
          * You can vary the texture of your future candied peel from soft (boiling for 10 minutes) to caramelized and chewy (additional 10 minutes of boiling).
         * Recycle the remnant citrus-infused syrup in cocktails, lemonade, fresh berries coulis, yogurts, etc.
          * The candied Meyer lemon preserve requires only one pre-boil, because the Meyer lemon’s skin is not as bitter as other citrus (especially when in season).
          * If you wish to make your orangettes version as close to the Parisian version as possible, please do use peppercorns, anise and vanilla pod in the boiling syrup and let your orange peels steep in it for at least few hours upon the end of boiling. As for the chocolate, please use the darkest you can find.
Enjoy your home-candying and I hope you will find this post helpful. À bientôt!

One year ago: Homemade Chicken Stock;

2 small oranges, peeled
1 small grapefruit, peeled
1 lemon, peeled
1 lime, peeled
1 ¾   cups white sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups water for syrup, plus more for blanching
Peel citrus fruits with the peeler. Reserve the fruits for another use. Slice peels in ¼ inch pieces.  Cover citrus peels with water in a sauce pan, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat blanching for two more times to remove the citrus peel bitterness. Drain citrus peel and set aside.  Combine sugar and 2 cups of water in a sauce pan, bring to boil and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon juice. Stir in citrus peel and simmer for 1 hour. Let cool. Drain. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the peel pieces to dry.  Let dry for 20-24 hours. Store in airtight container. Will keep on the shelf for about a week and for about a month in the fridge. Freezes well for longer shelf life.
6-7 oranges peeled
2 cups water + more for blanching
1 ½ cups white sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 peppercorns
1 piece star anise
1 small vanilla pod, pulp and bean
Cut oranges into quarters, peel and remove the pulp and save for another use. Slice the peel into thin strips. Remove the pith from the peels using paring knife.  Cover the peels with water in a sauce pan, bring to boil, simmer for 5 minutes, drain and put into an ice cold bath. Repeat blanching two more times. Place all the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add the thrice blanched peel and bring to boil and simmer for about an hour on a very low heat without the lid. Remove from heat and allow the mix to cool overnight steeping peels in the syrup. Next day, drain the peels, distribute on a cooling rack and let dry for at least 6-7 hours. Store in the airtight container.
To coat in chocolate, melt 100g of the dark bitter-sweet chocolate in bain-marie and using tongs or tweezers dip each peel, coating fully or partially and leave to set on a baking sheet.
3 Meyer lemons, thinly sliced
2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup sugar for sprinkling
Place sliced Meyer lemons in a saucepan and cover with 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Combine sugar and 1 cup of water, bring to boil and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon juice. Stir in sliced lemon and simmer for 45 minutes stirring from time to time. Let cool. Drain. Distribute on wire rack, sprinkle with sugar and let dry for 4-5 hours. Store in airtight container on the shelf for one week, or in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Buttermilk Baby Eggplant Amuse Gueule

This colorful amuse-gueule will convert even the most die-hard adversaries of a yucky –mushy (by nature) eggplant.  The creator of the recipe has found a way to balance the ingredients in an unexpected but a most harmonious way giving the dish not only the visual appeal, but also incredibly addictive kick of the Middle Eastern taste. It includes: olive-oil-induced creamy roasted eggplant, za’atar spice, tangy garlicky cool buttermilk-yogurt sauce and tart-sweet fresh pomegranate seeds. The original recipe used large eggplant; I used baby eggplants instead to turn the dish into individually portioned appetizers.  It is also very easy and fast to prepare. 

If you are a vegetarian and you haven’t heard of chef YO (Yotam Ottolenghi) yet, you will soon. For a few years now he’s been hogging the chef limelight in the UK with his creative Western twist on the Middle-Eastern flavors. And with his third bestselling cookbook just released, his recipes go really world-viral – especially vegetarian recipes (although the chef himself isn’t a vegetarian). Not so long time ago, I was staring at this aubergine dish on the cover page of his previous cookbook ’’Plenty’’,  mesmerized by its assertively artistic sense of composition and color, thinking: ‘’Oh, please, not again! You not gonna buy yet another cookbook with a fancy cover page recipe! Just take some time to think about it and at least read some reviews like normal people… You don’t even know this guy…’’ And then I forgot…
Until today… when the recipe dropped in my lap as one of the home assignments from the free Harvard course on molecular cuisine, and an example of a simple low caloric, nutritionally balanced and utterly tasty meal, which  Buttermilk Eggplant (YO’s signature dish) is. Not only I fell in love with it, it brought back the taste of Za’atar spice mix, which is so easy to make and so refreshing to use with numerous other dishes (see recipe below). With this one, in particular, I made some quick za’atar baguette crostini with cheddar and mozzarella to spoon the extra buttermilk sauce with. They appeared to be welcome addition to the eggplant appetizers…
Quick disclosure: Montreal is a culinary mecca for Middle Eastern cuisine compared to other Canadian cities (my visit to the newly opened Turkish resto is already scheduled). And I am set to explore many more places and recipes. Finally, I really wanted to know more about Ottolenghi’s cuisine so I discovered his website with recipes as well as the exciting series of his food travel to Turkey, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia called ”Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast’”.  Thumbs up, YO, for sure they will keep me busy this week-end… Now, let’s Ottoleng it.

The video of YO himself making his own dish would probably be the best reference. As for my own notes: making incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half is essential to absorb the olive oil – I did not do the diamond pattern though – just parallel incisions worked well with me (to grab a bit less oil).  I also reduced the amount of buttermilk from the original recipe to 5 tablespoons instead of 9 to make it less liquid. Finally, I did not use fresh thyme, but a dried one and I guess it worked fine to me. Without a doubt, I will be making the dish again. Cheers!

Full disclosure: I ate a double portion:

Yields: 4 portions
Eggplant Dish:
2 large eggplants or 6 baby eggplants, cut in half lengthwise and scored
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pomegranate de-seeded (see Note*)
1 ½ ttsp fresh lemon thyme leaves or dried thyme
1 tsp za’atar spice mix (see next)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Za’atar Spice Mix:
¼ cup sumac
2 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Grind the sesame seeds with mortar and pestle or in food processor. Mix with remaining ingredients. Store za’atar mix in a cool, dark place in a jar, plastic bag or airtight container (for 3 to 5 months).
Buttermilk Sauce:
1/3 cup (5 tbs) buttermilk (see Note**)
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil, plus drizzle to finish
1 small garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look – don’t eat it). Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern. Place eggplant halves flat side-up on a baking sheet. Brush thoroughly every half with olive oil and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Mix buttermilk into yogurt, remaining olive oil, garlic and salt to season. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Remove seeds from pomegranate. Serve by spooning sauce over eggplant halves and sprinkling za’atar and pomegranate seeds on top. Finish with the drizzle of olive oil.
Note*: Useful video on how to de-seed pomegranate with water; and another technique on de-seeding pomegranate without water.
Note**: If buttermilk is not available, add vinegar to milk (1/3 cup milk + 1 tsp distilled/white vinegar), stir, and let sit for 5-10 minutes to develop into acidified buttermilk. 
Adapted from: notes from EDX course and ”Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London’s Ottolenghi ” by Yotam Ottelenghi, Chronicle Books, March 2011.

Time for Apples: Apple Cider Vinegar Treasure

For years, we have been chasing a dream of our own private Garden of Eden, and now that we have it, it keeps us really busy, particularly in fall.  Apple picking is an important season for us: so many things to do with them and so little time in our hands! It is also magical, for each time I am wandering into the garden and catch the aroma of ripening and fermenting fruit it Proust-affects me and triggers some of my best childhood memories. End of summer: still no school, my grandparents collecting a mountain of apples to be processed, clouds of bees and lady bugs dancing around. My grandma in her summer kitchen behind the giant apple press squeezing out and giving me the first glass of the precious amber liquid. I walk through the fields of gold towards an old monastery orchard with my grandpa to learn about varieties of heirloom apples…  Oh, those days of freedom and wonder when you walked bare foot! They seem to be so far away… 

The Quebec climate is perfect to have wonderful orchards and one of the most interesting places to visit in fall in our neck of woods is a simple cider mill. Already busy with our own garden, I am not interested in going somewhere unless I can squeeze in a visit to an apple farm or a cidrerie.  
 A lovely short trip to the country is worthy of a lifted glass of a great apple cider at the place like, Michel Jodoin, for example, but there are so many, just minutes away from Montreal.
Spring, summer, fall or winter – there is something immaculate about the strait cascades of the apple trees in every season.  Anytime, I am ready to enjoy a humble winter silence of an orchard, a spring flower blossom, a comforting green shade in summer and, finally, the proverbial fruit that attracts zillions of living creatures to share the fermented apples feast.  Even elk or moose are no exceptions!

Our latest fall hobby is making our own apple cider vinegar.  There is absolutely nothing to making apple cider vinegar and many people I know are starting to do it too.  You just need some organic apples and a bit of patience. Fermenting is a new canning.  The importance of probiotics is sweeping our planet and comes closer and closer into focus. Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles – they are all good, but a homemade apple cider vinegar holds a very special place in my kitchen.  A spoon of a homemade apple cider vinegar added to a stock, stew, anything braised or roasted, makes wonders to the dish acting as a an enhancer and stabilizer of a flavour and bringing the best out of the cooking process. For me, it’s a truly revolutionary ingredient. You can officially ban the MSG once you have your own organic apple cider vinegar in your pantry.

The rule of thumb is: 4 weeks to make alcohol, plus 4 weeks to turn alcohol into the vinegar. If you are using a freshly pressed juice from organic apples, just roughly filter the juice, add one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar to the ¾ full wide-mouthed one gallon jar of a juice. Fix the top of a jar with a cheese cloth/cotton linen and elastic to prevent Drosophila, the little fruit flies, which will surely appear in mass. Place the jar/s in a dark (I am keeping them on the garage shelves) at a room temperature for 4-6 weeks. You will surely notice the musty aroma of fermenting apple juice while the sugar will be transforming into alcohol. After 4-6 weeks, filter the liquid through the cheesecloth and sieve and return to the clean washed jar. Cover back with a cheesecloth or linen and place it again in the dark place at the room temperature, for another 4 weeks to complete the fermentation process.  By the end of 4th week your apple cider vinegar is ready.  Do not filter it, just transfer the liquid to the dark bottles and store it in your pantry. The best is to visualize the steps for you, so here you are:
If you are living in an apartment and don’t have your own apple trees, you can equally use just cores and peels from organic apples (collect them in the zip lock bag in the freezer until you have enough amount to fill up the large-mouth glass jar of the selected to ½ (half full)). When ready and the apple scraps are in the jar, add some filtered water enough to submerge apple scraps but to not exceed ¾ of a jar.  Sprinkle sugar, or add organic honey (approximately ¼ cup sugar to each 1 quart (4 cups) of water). Add a tablespoon of a good quality organic apple cider vinegar to jump start the fermentation process.  Mix well with the wooden spatula, cover the jar with triple layer of a cheese cloth or a piece of linen and fix with elastic or band. Place in the dark warm (room temperature) room for 4-6 weeks. I store the jars in our garage in the wooden wine boxes on the shelves and cover the jars with pierced brown paper bags to make sure the light is not inhibiting the growth of bacteria and slowing down the process.  If you use the freshly squeezed clear apple juice, there is no need to mix the liquid once a day, but with scraps, you have to mix it once a day to assist the fermentation process.
After 4-5 weeks the scraps will start to sink to the bottom. At this point you filter the liquid through the sieve covered with a cheese cloth or paper towel.  Rinse the jar with cold water, return the strained liquid to it, cover with linen or cheesecloth again and let it ferment in a warm dark place for another 4 weeks.  No need to mix the liquid anymore, within 4 weeks it will transform into live vinegar with the mother formed on the surface of the ferment.  You will notice some sediment at the bottom of a jar. Do not filter it, because the mother of the vinegar needs this environment to stay alive.  As long as it is there, you can use some to start another batch of apple cider vinegar. Store the final product in the dark (preferably) glass or plastic containers from the former apple cider vinegar and place on your pantry shelf.  Enjoy it in salad dressings, stews, soups and other dishes.  Or, as your daily diet partner: a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in a bottle of water to help your cholesterol level. Even as a beauty product, such as, a hair rinse. Check these lists of benefits of apple cider vinegar for some interesting tips.

Chicken Stock for Body & Soul

What can be better than a cup of homemade chicken stock during a flu season? Properly prepared broth made of organic chicken or chicken bones (carcass) is not only a universal food that can easily transfer itself into countless recipes. It’s the way to avoid high sodium and monosodium glutamate packed content of most prepared broths. It is extremely nutritious and contains minerals and electrolytes which are easy to assimilate. Finally, it provides vital hydration and sodium balance the body needs during cold. Combined with veggies and other ingredients into a hearty soup, it serves as a real medicinal fuel to the body. Hanna Kroeger, a recognized authority in natural healing, describes the purported effect of chicken soup on health promotion and disease prevention in her must-have book ”Ageless remedies from mother’s kitchen” better than anyone else: ”Why is chicken soup superior to all the things we have, even more relaxing than “Tylenol?” It is because chicken soup has a natural ingredient which feeds, repairs, and calms the mucous lining in the small intestine. This inner lining is the beginning or ending of the nervous system. It is easily pulled away from the intestine through too many laxatives, too many food additives… and parasites. Chicken soup… heals the nerves, improves digestion, reduces allergies, relaxes and gives strength.”
Here are some of my cooking tips to make a great homemade chicken stock:
– Use organic chicken or carcass to deliver the best nutritive and the most palatable results.
– No matter how lazy you are, please do not skip bouquet garni as it adds a significant layer to the taste and helps the clarity of a consommé.
– Browning the ingredients adds color and flavor to the stock and significantly reduces amount of foam you have to skim during simmering.
– The ingredients should always be covered with cold water or the stock may become cloudy.
– It is important to simmer the stock partially covered, because it can easily become cloudy if boiled.
– To improve the clarity of the stock or make it less salty, add an extra bunch of fresh parsley 15-20 minutes before the end of cooking.
1 pound chicken carcass (preferably from organic chicken)
1 carrot cut in big chunks
1 celery stalk cut in big chunks
1 large yellow onion peeled
1 leek, ends trimmed, halved lengthways (optional)
5 fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley springs
1 bouquet garni (1 teaspoon dry thyme, 1/3 teaspoon peppercorns, 3 bay leaves tied in a cheese cloth or coffee filter)
4 cloves of garlic (optional)
3-4 slices of ginger (optional)
3 quarts cold water (equal to 3 liters or 12 cups)
kosher salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 450F. Rinse the chicken bones in cold water and place in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast the bones turning once until browned for about 15 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, onion and leek to the roasting pan and roast for 10 -15 minutes longer.
Transfer the bones and vegetables to a stockpot. Add cold water, parsley, bouquet garni and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Skim off the foam, reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer for 2 about hours, using a spoon to regularly skim off  the foam that rises to the surface. Add garlic cloves and ginger slices and simmer for another 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Using a sieve or colander lined with paper towels or cheesecloth, carefully strain the stock into a bowl. Discard the bones and solids. Let cool at room temperature for about 1 hour.
Cover and refrigerate the stock overnight. Discard any solidified fat from the surface. Use the stock immediately, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze in air tight containers or bags for up to 3 months. Makes about 10 cups.
Adapted from Easy Chicken Stock recipe at