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Top Twenty Hottest Food Trends 2015

For the week-end update and the January’s wrap up, I’ve collected some interesting data about the Food Trends for 2015. From the Food Channel to Better Homes & Gardens to Yahoo Food and many other sources, the experts and chefs agree on the following common food trends for 2015: 

ALL THAT VEG: Veggies are still going strong in 2015 to the greatest salumi-lovers chargin. The new crossbred vegetables like broccolette and kalette will enter the groceries and our kitchens. New cruciferous species are introduced by chefs (i.e. spigarello is the new kale according to Mario Batali). The underdogs like cauliflower and radishes re-emerge and will have a better standing throughout the year. 
I think it’s time to post my Cauliflower Lobster Dumplings Soup and/or Walnut Pesto Roasted Cauliflower soon. Stay tuned.
DIY FOOD BARS: From hippie lemon coconut cookies to healthy diy bites, raw food bars are becoming the new lunchables and your best traffic companion. Try this bites for some healthy breaks.
DUCK IS THE NEW CHICKEN: The duck’s popularity continues to grow and its healthier sustainable protein and fat are more and more recognized (along with duck eggs that cost the same as chicken eggs at Asian supermarkets). Roast it, use it in soups and stir fries, make some roasted duck skin salads (2014 restaurant hip). If not already, try this remarkable and easy duck roast to start falling in love with it. 
Follow with the duck skin salad for more adventure.
VEGETARIAN RAMEN: From NYC to Montreal and Toronto; from East coast to West coast, North to South, Ramen is still one of the most wanted foods, except this year vegetarian versions are more and more in demand. Pack it with all kind of Asian greens and herbs, miso/sriracha/and bunch of other flavors, add some sea weed and poached egg and you are good to go. Try to avoid the instant noodles unless you want to die a little each time you let 50% saturated fat and 2-days dose of sodium fuzz your digestive tract.
RABBIT IS THE NEW IT MEAT:Looks like my New Year’s Eve post on Cuban Rabbit Fricasse was right on time: rabbit is the next lean-clean light meat that can absorb all kind of flavors and make you feel light and good. 
Just wait until you try my rabbit lasagna!
SMALLER FISH:The time of the Old Man and the Sea has passed and the small fish is a new big fish logo now with all points sustainable. Try some Japanese smelts tempura or grilled sardines next and you won’t miss any big fish anymore.  
OYSTERS IN SEASON: Raw or baked, this highly sustainable and still very affordable bivalve is taking restaurant and home kitchens by the storm in 2015. Why not? The year of the Goat is all about elegance and class: let’s fancy this trend with a dash of sustainable kelp caviar, lime granita and a bit of mignonette sauce on a side.  
SEAWEED SAGA: 2015 is also about sophisticated cooking so many Japanese condiments have a strong presence including seaweed (fresh, dry or reconstituted) being added to stocks, salads and mains for added taste and umami. Great iodine booster besides other things, a pack of dried sea weed for the cup of morning miso or kombu for some hearty stocks make the most welcome additions to your pantry.
KEEP FORAGING:from edible weeds and berries to wild flowers to mushrooms and nuts foraging expands like never before to bring a touch of wilderness and rare flavors to the dishes and make our lives healthier and fancier. Check the recipes for Juniper Ham in Pastry; Cream of Foraged Greens; Almond Gazpacho with Violets; Fiddlehead Ferns Omlet and Pasta.
BREAD REVOLUTION: While the gluten free trend is still strong, there is a growing revolution in the area of artisanal breads (with multi and/or sprouted grain), which according to the world’s bread experts is going to expand over the next few years. Check this easy super-savory Cypriot-style bread recipe for the first hand exposure when making your own first artisanal bread.
FERMENTED & SOUR FOODS: Healthy gut has become the American priority in the war against the obesity. Fermented foods – yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and miso are trendier than ever. Use this fool proof kimchi recipe to join the movement. 
SPECIALTY PASTAS: Gluten free movement resulted in some outstanding specialty pastas (brown rice, kamut, buckwheat, spelt, etc.) that are now available at the restaurants and in stores. Make your next pasta meal special with this Pasta con le Sarde recipe and spaghetti of your choice.
SPICES & SMOKE ON A RISE: Learning how to season food in more than just salt and pepper has never been more exciting. From Cajun Spice and New Orleans food chronicles in the Chef movie, to Middle Eastern Za’atar mix the spice empire is raising its bar high this year. Check these simple Cajun and Zaatar spice mix DIYs, or try the some juniper berries in your next recipe. Add some smoke whenever you can and/or use more of the smoked paprika and chili seasoning.
FANCY COOKIES: The wheat revolution brought more focus on home-made cookies. From chocolate chips to Eccles cakes to gluten free hazelnut chocolate bites or candied ginger scones packed with dried fruits (coming soon) – gran style cookies with some modern health twist are very much in. FYI, cannabis is becoming a popular baking ingredient further to more and more of its legalization in many places.
BITTER IS A NEW BOLD: Wake up your bile and liver!  The watercress, ginseng, green collards, coffee, dark chocolate rubs and other acrid, astringent taste sensation evoking foods are in and ready to help your liver recovery.  Try the watercress salad for a difference.
SIPPING BROTH: Healthy broth is predicted to take over by the end of 2015. Anything that can increase the body’s alcalinity is a hot trend.  I’m already making my own miso soups for breakfast, but I’ve also experimented with a bunch of vegetarian broths that can boost your energy in the morning. Like this rainbow broth (red color is given by beets) that is great to kick start the day on a positive note with something less boring than smoothie. Stay tuned. And hey, mark my words: the Ginseng Chicken Soup will be a giant hit by the end of the year or earlier.
HOME BREWING & CANDYING: The DIY alchemy has never been stronger, from home-made apple cider to specialty vinegar to DIY rose water, to making your own primitive fermented drink, beer, wine or cider – I’m in, and ready to finally go and buy that special ‘mother’ to start brewing the real deal. Candied orange, lemon and ginger are also now very hot ingredients.
WINE CASUALIZED: Here is a bit of good news for everyone: from liquor stores to big gulps to future AA people and the rest of us.  A bit of wine each day is better than getting wasted during the week-end and that’s the whole thing about the great red cell cardio benefits.  
Make it casual. Make it French. Make it quality over quantity. Start using it in cooking sparingly: from stew, to soup to the dessert jelly, a splash of wine works wonders in cooking.  
ETHNIC BECOMES GLOBAL: The word ethnic is being removed from the chef’s vocabulary. Food and trends have turned global and we are all contributing to it. There will be no more polemic as to the origin of borscht.
RESTAURANTS – MY KITCHEN, MY RULES: The restaurants start discouraging the food photography and cell phones in general focusing on their food rather than opinion, which is the great news to those who want to be inspired by the food quality and cooking innovation rather than formality of the rating in social media. Example: this guy gave me the stink eye (aka dirty look) after I was taking the picture and I think he was absolutely right: it is disturbing.
REPLICATING RESTAURANTS: This is one of my favorite things and I’ve already been doing it for years. What’s the point of going someplace they serve what you can make at home in minutes (and without an extra pound of re-fried butter in it)? However, if it’s something extraordinary like this or that, I’m always in, and impressed and would like to go back even if I can deconstruct it and make it at home. I’m a big miss in general for the Michelin type of restos simply because I don’t like to feel like the honorable cadavre staring at some kind of tiny food in jello or smoke displayed (yes, I’m talking about micro cuisine) on a perfectly clean plate and reminding of the sad future of food and humanity. But some hearty hole in the wall with down to earth alternative burger packed with fresh ingredients and flavors: YES, PLEASE.

Homemade Rosemary Oatcakes for Cheese & Wine Party

My recent cheese degustation at ‘La Fête des fromages d’ici’ event during 2014 Montreal en Lumiere  prompted me to throw my own wine and cheese party for ‘the Oscars’.  It would be like any other cheese and wine gathering, except this time it wasn’t. It was much more than that due to the two new players in the setting, namely, the Rosemary Oatcakes and three- fillings Eccles cakes (will follow shortly). The salty-sweet combo really wowed my guests who were seriously hooked on them urging me to eventually write this post. This column is about the oatcakes, a wonderful day or night snack or tapas base with full, nutty and robust flavor that I can personally munch on all day long.

Oatcake is a traditional Scottish flatbread, an equivalent of what baguette is for French, although the oatcake it’s more of an acquired taste for non-Scottish. I’ve fallen in love with it the day I tried it first and have been baking the basic oatcakes since.  Oatcakes make a great substitute for bread or crackers and a flawless combo with cheese, which is my idea of a great breakfast, quick bite or travel companion. In this case, the herbs (you can use dried oregano, tarragon, sage instead of rosemary) and cracked pepper add some charmingly snooty touch to otherwise humble oatmeal snack.

I love to try local artisan cheeses. There are over 100 cheese producers in Quebec, the province that still remains the leader in Canadian artisan cheese-making. Each of them has his own unique variety of cheese worth trying. But here comes what I don’t like – the price of it. You step into any given grocery and see an impressive display of alluring artisan cheeses.  But you know that the way it looks is as good as this display is ever going to get. Once you turn a little cheese sliver wrapped by the hands of a concerned middleman, you put is back feeling like you just got beaten in a dark alley. This article would be more fluent on the subject of unaffordability of cheese all over Canada to the point that even policemen get caught trying to smuggle cheese from the US into Canada for the profit. 

But I won’t rock the boat any further since the good news is the newly signed Free Trade agreement with European Union will supposedly give us a break in 2015.   For now I’ve discovered my own way to procure local prize winning cheeses for less … by going directly to the cheese farm. The renown Fritz Kaiser inc for example has a great boutique at their manufacturing facility where they sell plethora of their own cheeses for at least 30% less. We have been going there regularly and each time it feels like a blast.

Assets on display at fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc.: FYI, you will notice the slight price change (from 2013 to 2014), but still this is nothing compared to the wallet abuse you will experience in a regular store.

Visiting farms on week-ends has many other perks – you have a gulp of fresh air, enjoy peaceful countryside winter stillness, take notes of the new destinations and share all of this with friends and family afterwards during cheese and wine impromptu. Marvelous!

It’s when cheese and wine usual hubbies step in: nuts, dried fruits, berries, honey and of course baguette. This time though (as I already revealed it to you) I decided to replace the traditional bread with Eccles (sweet)and oatcakes (salty) for a gorgeous mouthful.

The advantage of the oatcakes is that it’s easy and fast to make and you can make it gluten free applying gluten free flour.  In the meantime, set your cheese out to get to the room temperature (covered with a damp cheese cloth to prevent drying out) as it will taste best when ‘relaxed’ just by the time your oatcakes will be cooling on the rack. 

I’ve experimented with a few savory versions and this one is close to the real deal. Try it with your own added touch of sophistication (herbs & spices) and you might never want to buy crackers again. Cheers and Say Cheese!

A year ago: Homemade Granola 
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup all-purpose OR gluten free flour
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 tsp freshly ground pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp crushed rosemary leaves
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 stick (1/3 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Put the oats into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add flour, salt, pepper, rosemary, baking powder and butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and pulse for about 15 seconds until a dough forms. Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and cut out about 30 rectangular or 60 square oatcakes. Arrange the oatcakes on the baking sheets 1/2 inch apart and bake in the middle of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until brown on the bottom. Transfer oatcakes to a rack and cool completely.

‘Nuts About You’ Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches

As I’m writing this, most of you probably already have some kind of titillating chocolate cherub in the vicinity, so this post might first look redundant, but please keep reading if you wish to discover why these little cookies are my choice tonight.
No matter how commercial, patronizing and insipid the Valentine’s Day may feel, it’s still about LOVE, so it gives you and your significant one a chance to give each other some extra attention in so many ways. Sky is the limit, but for me, Valentine is also about celebrating the miraculous and things I like in general. Like cooking, discovering new ingredient, flavor or combination, etc. – today it happens to be the tiny Lady’s Kisses or Baci di Dama Italian sweet treat I was looking for quite a while and surprisingly discovered in Bonjour Paris website, while I was searching for something completely different. I made a small batch, almost climaxed trying it (think of life as a box of chocolates) and here we are, I am sharing the recipe with you… If for you it’s a cat, ukulele or working out the muscle, give yourself a slack and arrange for your own nirvana.
Life is short and there’s no need for a crystal ball to tell us what we need to do next to be happy. Love is everywhere, every day, every minute and I wish we would notice and celebrate it more often. In the meantime, here is a great dig of a Jimmy Fallon’s Valentine songs during his SNL apprenticeship  back in 1999 to put a smile on your face.
The weather is a usual snow-storming today (let’s be positive: at least it’s not hailing), so good luck with all that reservations taken around the city tonight – it will be a Big Honking Deal.
As for me, a home-made winter warmer (supper + wine) with further cuddling and watching Olympics would fix it, not without a touch of my latest hazelnut cookies addiction to go with a cup of tea (a glass of champagne and some fresh berries might replace it tonight).  And did I tell you that my hubby goes nuts about them too? Why? Because you can’t go wrong with ethereally rose scented hazelnut mini-slabs hosting a decadent dark chocolate filling!  Gluten free, my friends, and you are welcome!

The dough is made of roasted and chopped hazelnuts, rice flour (you can still use regular unbleached flour), butter and sugar with the touch of salt and rose water (I suppose you can swap maple syrup for sugar, but you don’t need to add rose water in that case). Mix the ingredients with your hands in one ball, then cut it and roll it in short logs in batches (1.5 inch diameter), wrap in the film and refrigerate for 2 hours, or just leave it in a freezer for 15 minutes. Slice the logs quarter of an inch thick (about 5 mm), distribute in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 325 F for 15 minutes. Let cool without removing from the sheet, melt the chocolate in bain marie and sandwich a dollop of chocolate between two cookies until you run out of them. Start eating them right away.

Confessions: I doubled the recipe’s quantity and skipped the part of rolling the sliced dough into little rounds (the actual lady’s lips) like it is suggested in original recipe turning them into sandwiches. Heck, it saved me a lot of time and gave me something to talk about with my best half (‘Oh, crikey, I completely forgot to make the lady’s lips out of them, but they still look like cartoonish lips, and the taste is still there… and HEY that’s why I called them sandwiches!‘(say it in Italian, if you know Italian, for more drama)).  
Short in time or space? Go for the faster dessert option of a little Molten chocolate cake – so swoon-worthy for the Valentine! Or just buy a bunch of quality French macaron like I did last year – heavenly. 
 Have a Happy Valentine dear readers!
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger

Makes about 20-24 mini-sandwiches
1 ¼ cups roasted and skinned hazelnuts or blanched almonds
1 ¼ cup rice flour (or unbleached flour)
3.5 oz (100g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (100 g) sugar
½ tbsp rose water (or fleur d’oranger water)
Pinch of salt
2 oz (60g) bittersweet chocolate, melted in bain marie
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Chop the hazelnuts in a food processor to the semi-coarse, but not flour consistency.  Mix all ingredients, except the chocolate, with your hands in one ball, then cut it and roll it in short logs in batches (1.5 inch diameter), wrap each log in the film and refrigerate for 2 hours, or just leave it in a freezer for 15 minutes. Slice the logs quarter of an inch thick (about 5 mm), distribute in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool without removing from the sheet. In the meantime, melt the chocolate in bain marie and sandwich a dollop of chocolate between two cookies until you run out of them.  Enjoy right after the chocolate sets within 15 minutes.
Adapted from: Lady’s Kisses (Baci di Dama) by Theresa Murphy

Heaven In Your Mouth: Easy Eggless Tiramisu

Today is an International Day of Italian Cuisine and tiramisu is a selected dish to master and compete in. For me, this dessert is not only the unique flavour of mascarpone, espresso, cocoa, liquor and lady biscuits combination that makes it so attractive. Most importantly, it does not require any baking and you can control the amount of sugar in it, which makes it a real delight to prepare and indulge in!
While the official event will take place in New York City at the International Culinary Center – School of Italian Studies, we have our own little celebration here as my daughter is making her own take on tiramisu in our kitchen. As you will see from the image she finished it with strawberries turning it into the fruit tiramisu category. Other than that the recipe follows authentic ingredients, but has no eggs in it. Why no eggs (any Italian chef would furiously inquire)? Simply because we just survived stomach flu and are going easy on our
gastric departments. For many others skipping zabaione (eggs/sugar/wine) layer would also mean much less calories… But no worries, this recipe is still as fresh and delicious as tiramisu can be, plus we will be adding a link to the authentic recipe of tiramisu below in case you would like to try both versions.

Despite its huge popularity and fame nowadays, tiramisu was not there during the times of Filippo Lippi or Giulio Romano when they were depicting their historical banquets. This heavenly dessert did not even exist 50 years ago: I could not find any trace of it in “The Cooking of Italy“ Foods of the World published by Life Time books in 1968. Whoever created it was definitely a genius as this little treat brought the fame of Italian cuisine to a whole new level.

Filippo Lippi, View of the fresco cycle in Prato Cathedral, Italy – Herod’s Banquet – Salome

Giulio Romano, Banquet of Amor and Psyche
The heart of this widely loved Italian dessert is mascarpone cheese. The next four most important ingredients are: few spoons of espresso, lady fingers cookies, few spoons of dark rum (Marsala liquor, porto or brandy) and cocoa powder. As for the rest of the ingredients (sugar, cream, eggs (if using)) you will definitely have them in your pantry.

As in any dessert preparation, the proportion is the key and be easy on the lady fingers rum-coffee soaking, they just need a very quick dip to get into the right condition, no need to make them soggy…

When layering the ramekins or martini glasses with lady fingers and mascarpone mix, you can go vertically, or horizontally, or even add some strawberry layers if you want. Top with cocoa powder and/or some chocolate shavings.

Allora andiamo, lets have the dessert “pick me up“ (as “tirami sù` translates from Italian)… 
Finally, here is the tiramisu authentic recipe, which calls for an egg and does not include strawberries.



125 grams (1 cup) mascarpone cheese
12-14 Italian lady fingers biscuits
4-6 tablespoon espresso coffee (or 3 in 1 instant coffee)
3 tablespoon dark rum (or Marsala or coffee liquor, or brandy, or porto)
1/2 vanilla extract
1 tablespoon caster (superfine sugar)
2 tablespoon thickened cream
1 tablespoon plain yogurt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (or shaved dark chocolate) for dusting
few strawberries thinly sliced for garnish (optional)


In a bowl, mix mascarpone, vanilla extract, caster sugar, cream, yogurt and 1 tablespoon liquor until creamy consistency.
In a wide and shallow plate mix coffee and the rest of liquor and dip lady finger biscuits in it one by one.
Cut the biscuit to fit into your ramekin or martini glass. Add mascarpone mixture to cover the biscuits.
Chill the glass or ramekin for 15-30 minutes in the fridge. Dust with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings and top with strawberries when serving.
forget the ramekins and strawberries, layer the biscuits and mascarpone spread in the classic way – either way this eggless tiramisu will be a hit:

Walnut Cookies & Hot Chocolate

Next time I should be careful about what to wish for, as the snowfall which hit Montreal last night, might easily inch up to reach our roof by tonight. And that means lots of traffic, possible power shortages and massive driveway shoveling among many other not-so-pleasant things on the New Year’s Eve. So now my wish is: Let it stop snowing in Montreal!

Just yesterday we were doing cross-country skiing and some bird watching in a peaceful winter countryside.
Check what the landscape turned into today:
Fortunately, there are still some Christmas cookies left, so tonight right after shovelling we can do some cookie-hot chocolate cuddling next to the fire place.
I am not sure about the origin of these cookies. Most of the time they are called Mexican Wedding Cookies, but I’ve heard they originally came to America with Spanish conquistadors as Christmas cookies. Whatever the origin, we only make them in Christmas time and over the years they became my favourite thing to dip in a hot chocolate when “baby, its cold outside“. Except, maybe, churros, but those are summer treats for me.
The preparation only takes 15 minutes, baking only 20 minutes and the rest depends on how carb conscious you are. The walnut content replacing lots of flour is definitely a plus, although this does not prevent me from feeling guilty when I eat them. Anyways, kids or adults – everybody loves them during holidays!
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cups ground walnuts
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Beat the butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add sugar and beat till blended. Gradually, beat in the flour, and then ground and chopped walnuts. Divide the dough in half, forming each into a ball and chill in plastic separately until cold for about 30 minutes to 24 hours (I prefer to bake the second half next day).
Take 2 teaspoons of dough and roll them between the palms of your hands into little balls, press a little to form a cookie. Arrange on the baking sheet 1/2 inch apart.
Bake until pale golden brown for 18-20 minutes, cool for 5 minutes and toss the cookies into the powdered sugar. Transfer to the serving plate. If desired, you can sift them with additional powder sugar before serving.
Makes 3 to 4 dozen of cookies.