Monthly Archives: January 2013

Ice Fishing in Quebec

Every winter, somewhere on the historic King’s road (route 138) to Quebec city, a colorful fishing village of over 500 cabins appears right on the river ice.

Known as Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, the place takes its name after the monumental Catholic church located at the mouth of the Sainte-Anne river. The mega church itself is already a first puzzle for the visitors, as its hard to understand its size vs under two thousand population ratio.

But the real reason behind the popularity of this place is a little fish called ”poulamon” (‘poolamon’), (or tomcod in English) which comes in zillions to Sainte Anne river each winter to reproduce. This is when the ice fishing village construction takes place and thousands of anglers arrive to fish tomcod in those cabins through the holes in the ice.

The tomcod (which is also called in French: ”petit poisson des chenaux”) is a fish from the cod family, which lives from 3 to 8 years and produces about 8600 eggs per lay in average. It roams the west coast of Atlantic, and comes to Saint-Anne river via St. Laurence to lay eggs.

The name ”poulamon” was borrowed into early North American French in Maritimes where it was the word for tomcod fish in the language of the Micmac First Nations people.

via Wikimedia Commons

We have been postponing our ”pêche blanche” trip to La Perade for weeks and finally took our time to start the ice fishing season last Sunday. I packed us a perfect picnic basket with assorted sandwiches, veal canapes, meatloaf leftovers from the other night, few bottles of our favorite red and white, a huge thermos of coffee and many other things. In other words: everything to make our trip a success in case we don’t catch the fish.

As you can see from the images, this place is not only for anglers and snow mobilers. Many people come here with kids and pets making it a family outing and what a great idea it is! There is so much fun for anyone in a place like that: fishing, sliding, skiing, hockey playing, snowman making, eating, dancing, taking a cart or even a helicopter tour over the frozen river for that special scenic drive!

No need to bring your rod or even fishing license to this place! Once you reserve your cabin everything is included: fishing lines with hooks, pork liver bait, wood and parking. The cabin was warm and super-comfy with wooden stove and electricity, so we could even plug in our stereo! We parked the car right outside the door of our cabin.

The cabin owner gave us some tips on fishing the tomcod. There is a wooden pole in the cabin with bunch of fishing lines attached to it right over the fishing hole. Each line is anchored with a weight and two hooks. The proper fishing technique is to attach the bait to hide the hook and let your weight fall to the bottom. You then raise the fishing line about half an inch from the bottom and wait until the fish bites.

Since the fish is biting fast, you have to repeat these moves quite often. This fish baits and bites like crazy, you get so much adrenaline! This is the view from the bottom of the river:

We caught a few dozen of tomcod within two hours. Once caught, the fish is thrown outside the cabin in the snow to freeze. That way the flavor is preserved and the fish is easy to clean.

The wooden stove was working non-stop in our cabin, so later in the evening, after all our snacks were gone, we even had time to eat some of our catch: clean, roll the fish in flour and fry it. It was quite delicious, although the fish cleaning part was not my favorite.

 The night is young, the folk fiddle and accordion music is still playing all over the place, people are just getting ready for the next contest…

Sadly for us, its time to leave as it takes few hours to go back to Montreal. Lit up at night, the cabins’ windows give wintery twinkling to the frozen river which seems suspended in light between white snow and dark star-flecked sky. A real Winter Wonderland! Can’t wait to return…
 À bientôt La Perade!!!
This is the address for this ”only in Quebec” location and their link:
8, rue Marcotte, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade
Québec, Canada, G0X 2J0
http://www.associationdespourvoyeurs.com/

Perfect Green Salad Vinaigrette

Something tells me I am not the only one who Santa has brought few extra pounds over the holidays. Although we are still weeks away from Lent, I guess its time to reverse the holiday weight gain with something light, but not too boring. I am taking a detox brake and this is exactly when a humble side dish like a good salad steps in and becomes our diet centerpiece.

Each time I am buying a green mix, I am trying to find one with a fair amount of arugula in it. Its peppery notes pair perfectly with the below dressing as well as sweet or salty flavours in salad if you decide to add some other ingredients. In addition, this low-caloric oak-shaped leaf brings an immune boost like almost no other green making it a perfect cruciferous to detoxify and even fight cancer.

 Naturally, some crispy Romaine or Boston lettuce can be a good substitute for green mix. I tend to avoid the iceberg lettuce though for the lack of taste or nutritional value.

Good dressing is the heart of any salad. Every chef has his own take on a vinaigrette for green salad, but most of the time the truly successful dressing is all about the proportion of oil and acidity (3-to-1). This vinaigrette recipe has been my standby for years and has 4 simple ingredients: olive oil (I use unfiltered), balsamic vinegar (Modena), minced garlic and salt. No need to say that quality ingredients such fine grade oil & vinegar, and crispy fresh greens & garlic make a huge difference as opposed to bargain priced groceries.
Sometimes I replace garlic with a minced shallot, or add minced shallot in addition to the garlic. What makes this dressing universal, is that instead of balsamic vinegar you can use any vinegar of your choice: red or white wine, sherry, champagne or even apple cider vinegar. You can also replace the vinegar by or mix it with lemon or lime juice. Equally, you can modify the oil component with walnut, canola, avocado, sunflower or any other oil you like or feel proper for your salad mix. A dash of Dijon mustard will turn this dressing into a French dressing, but I usually skip it, which is why I marked it as optional in the recipe. As long as the proportion (3 parts of oil, 1 part of vinegar) is kept as a baseline +, you will be successful with your own take on any green mix salad variation. If your dressing doesn’t taste the way you like, feel free to add more of salt, freshly milled pepper, vinegar, etc. to adjust the flavor and alter the recipe according to your palate.

A while ago my grandma gave me this gorgeous set of wooden salad bowls (unvarnished and untreated) with a peculiar advice on how to use them properly. “The bowls should never be washed, just wipe them out well with a paper towel” (what?)…”eventually they will be seasoned and perfumed from many salads,” she went on handing me her collection of notes on multiple salad dressings. The more I insisted on secretly washing the bowls with soap, the more often I discovered some similar instructions in the old cookbooks regarding wooden salad bowls and omelet pans care. Until I gave up and decided to give those bowls some proper respect. The down side of course is that I am only using them on special occasions (following the rule: whatever can not go into the dishwasher, has to wait).

You can top the dressed salad with countless number of other things be it veggies, fruits, nuts, cheese or some lean protein – this dressing pairs really well with huge array of food. My latest favorite is walnut – blue cheese – pomegranate topping.

Like most vinaigrette, this one can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator or a cool place, but I prefer to make it fresh each time, because it tastes way better in the room temperature keeping the garlic bits pungent.

UNIVERSAL GREEN SALAD VINAIGRETTE
Ingredients:
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic (or shallot)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of your choice)
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard (optional)
6 tablespoons good quality olive oil (or oil of your choice)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions:
Whisk together garlic, vinegar, mustard (if using), salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly add olive oil while whisking until dressing is well mixed. If using mustard, whisk until vinaigrette is emulsified.
Place the salad greens in the bowl and dress to moisten with the vinaigrette. Do not use too much dressing, the salad should not be liquid. Sprinkle with little extra salt and pepper if desired and serve immediately.

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.

EASY EGGLESS TIRAMISU

Ingredients:

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)

Instructions:

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.
 OR,
forget the ramekins and strawberries, layer the biscuits and mascarpone spread in the classic way – either way this eggless tiramisu will be a hit:

In Winter Solitude

“Winter solitude – in a world of one color the sound of wind“, Matsuo Basho

Just during last week: +15 in Toronto; -5 in San Diego; snowstorm in Jerusalem and a scary new heat level color meteorologists had to add to the map of Australia… Looks like we are already surviving the global warming and its crazy.

A thrilling documentary “Chasing Ice“ is finally out and playing: enjoy it along with Scarlett Johansonn`s voice behind the song nominated for Oscars 2013 in the Best Original Song category.

Here are some peaceful images of the winter scenery from last week in Montreal area:

A Must-Have Folklore Accent Pillow

Aint she a beauty? I just could not pass on this one. The moment I saw this evocative and bold deer-esque accent pillow with its nature-inspired feel on sale at Indigo book store, I knew I had to buy it! So many things I can do around this pillow: the images went on and on…
Vibrant colors, unusual pattern, layers of funky texture – so different from those mass produced deco objects. I would say it can easily become an accent pillow that started it all ( in any re-decorating project). I love it so much that I have already built an imaginary room around it in my head while driving back home with it! Bingo: it quickly adds whimsy and charm to the space and takes the lead of all the other (less exuberant) pillow contenders in the seating area.
Whether its for your cottage, cabin, lodge or home, this is a perfect decorative pillow to bring life to your chair, sofa or bed. No to mention the instant feeling of the enchanted northwoods of Canada and its wildlife. Definitely a keeper! Oh, and, by the way, please do not associate this pillow with winter only. This is a perfect 4 seasons decor accent which can sit on your couch for spring, summer or fall for its theme and color palette universally pertain to all 4 seasons. Check this out:
Small space or large space, the size of this pillow is optimal for any scale (16” x 16”) and the pattern will add some magic to your space. The pillow case can be easily removed (there is a concealed zipper on aside) and machine washed. And did I tell you the pillow itself is filled with a quality feather down (not a fiberfill)? It is currently at 50% off at Indigo stores or on-line in Canada, so hurry before they run out of stock and good luck. Here is the link for this must-have Deer Accent Pillow from Indigo book store.