Monthly Archives: June 2013

”La Vie en Rose” Moment

”A Cup of Water and a Rose”, by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1630.
The objects in this painting may be intended to have a symbolic character: the water in the cup perhaps refers to the Virgin’s purity and the flower recalls her title of ‘Mystic Rose’.

When years ago I was planting my rose garden, I wanted to look out the window and see ”indefensible” amount of beauty that can lift my spirits, inspire and bring clarity in my life. Sadly, once the roses have grown to give that fragrant abundance each June, I was too busy to even notice them most of the time. Until last week, when a chain of some very un-inspiring events has brought me to this Carnegie’s quote: ”One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” I decided to fix that human error and take a day off rose-meditating. 
Many things needed to get done, but I stopped everything and firmly pushed myself to do nothing but to catch this moment. Breathe. Smell the roses. Watch the bees. Listen to the warm summer breeze. Absorb the sacredness of the nature. I meditated, I read, I did yoga, I took the warm bath with salts and rose petals. My ”universe is expanding” state slowly dwindled away and down. Nothing really mattered anymore, but a virtue of a beautiful empowering scent – a virtue of a true beauty and happiness which is always there for us. But we rarely notice it because the blooming time is short and the smell is elusive and we can not possess it … Or can we?
Suddenly I had an urge to make that rose smell last and be with me for the fall and winter and next spring until I can be back in my rose garden and catch this moment again. I found myself looking for a rose water tutorials and there I was, an hour later, collecting the rose petals and assembling my own little distillery.

”Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May”, by John William Waterhouse, 1909

The invigorating smell of roses filled up the house with some magical aura carrying away the rest of my sadness, healing my emotions and replacing them with an excitement of an alchemist. Science is wonderful! Three hours later I decanted the fragrant distilled liquid in the plastic container and placed it in the fridge to cool down to develop a full scent.

The next morning I opened it – it really smelled like an air filled with a bunch of roses on a hot summer day! I used it as a face toner and cleanser and – WOW! If there is such thing as a feeling of a baby Jesus skin, that was it. The real toner of youth and good times as if designed for ”angels and butterflies”: it softened and refreshed the skin and closed the pores instantly! I assume you can also keep it in a spray bottle and mist your face and hair with it any time you want a natural a smile. I promised myself to find a nice dark glass Art Deco bottle to keep my rose water refrigerated in it to use it for many months to come and, hopefully, until next June. But for that I have to make another batch, so I am off to go…
It’s so easy, it can actually be a great craft to do with kids. All you need is: a bottle of a distilled (or spring) water, a large stock pot or a Dutch oven with the lid slightly bigger that can fit tightly on your chosen stock pot (or a big metallic sauce pan instead of the lid), a brick or a flat stone, a small heat safe bowl that will sit securely on the brick to collect the rose water, a large quantity of fresh fragrant rose petals and a bunch of ice or a sauce pan with an ice cold water. Put the stone in the stock pot; add water to top the level of the brick; place a dry heat-resistant bowl on the brick and the rose petals around the brick; start heating and cover with the lid (upside down) filled with ice cubes or a bowl with the ice cold water. Evaporate the rose water for up to 3 hours on the low heat, refreshing the ice cubes or ice cold water to enhance the condensation process. Check out these images, or follow the instructions of this less than 2 minutes tutorial on how to make your own rose water.

Wrapping up, this was my handful of sunshine and the aha moment for the day to prove that life can be great under any circumstances. What is your way to detox the emotions?
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours
1 quart (liter) distilled or spring water
1 basket (size of your choice) of organic fragrant rose petals, freshly collected
1 big bag of ice cubes or ice cold water
1 three quart + (3 liters+) large stockpot
1 big lid that can close the stock pot well when upside down, or a big metallic bowl
1 brick or flat stone
1 small heat-proof bowl to place on the brick inside the stock pot
Place the brick in a center of a deep large stockpot. Add water to top the level of the brick; place a dry heat-proof bowl on the brick. Distribute the rose petals around the brick. Start heating and cover the stockpot with the lid (upside down) filled with ice cubes or with the bowl of the ice cold water. Lower heat to simmer. Evaporate the rose water for up to 3-4 hours, refreshing the ice cubes or ice cold water on top to enhance the condensation process. As the mixture of petals boils, the steam rises and hits the cold top, which causes it to condensate and drip down into the inner bowl. When done, the small bowl will contain the rose water, which will have a thin film of rose oil that is essential oil or extract. Decant the rose water into a container and let cool in the fridge to develop a full scent. Keep it in the fridge and enjoy as toner, cleanser, refresher, moisturizer. Equally, you can use it in baking, desserts or making other culinary concoctions, such as rose jello, apple cider vinegar, etc.

My Twist on Salmon Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

Although a classic quicheis a German-French invention, for many Montrealers it became almost a ”taste of home”. From food courts to high-end restos to street food that has just begun circulating streets of our city, you can find a piece of quiche at every corner. Quiche is so popular here, that Jamie Oliver and Derek Dammann serve it as a staple at their Maison Publique British pub! What is it about this dish that made us so much in love with it? Perhaps it is its ”versatile and forgiving” nature: so many things can go into this great mix, each bringing its own touch of flavor, texture and look! There are numerous iterations of quiche components (ham, fish, mushrooms, veggies), but certain ingredients remain constant: eggs, cheese and crust.
I love salmon broccoli cheddar quiche and make it quite often. This time I decided to challenge the crust and replace it with pain perdu (old bread) just to experiment and save time and effort. The result – simply amazing! What an excellent way to skip time taking and messy crust-making or rolling, not to mention the whole list of ingredients you have to have on hand when you do a gluten free crust! Gluten free bread (made of mostly rice flour) adds some sweetness to the dish. Combined with cheesy, spongy and custardy egg-broccoli-salmon-cheddar mix, it brings a subtle hint of a soufflé into the dish.
This quiche’s versatility does not stop with the gluten-free crust! Use freshly cooked salmon or replace it with ham; swap broccoli for leek, spinach or Swiss char; change Cheddar cheese for Swiss or Guyere; use your favorite herbs and spice: experiment until you find YOUR favorite! And for those who like their crust classic, here are some interesting variations of Ham & Cheddar Quiche or Salmon & Spinach Quiche from Montreal Gazette.
My tips for making this quiche a success:

– bake the old bread cubes for about 10 minutes at 350f  until slightly golden
– mash the canned salmon with its liquid (for extra flavor) and bones (high in calcium)
– boil chopped broccoli for 2 minutes, drain and let cool
– add a few spoons of flour (spelt in my case) into the eggs mix for that spongy-airy soufflé-like result; do not add too much salt to the mix because the cheese will add enough saltiness to the dish
– layer the buttered dish in the following order: bread cubes first; then mix of salmon, broccoli and sauteed onions; then egg-milk-flour mix; then shredded cheese
– make sure you butter your dish well, so the crust will not glue to it
– bake uncovered at 350F for the first 15 minutes, then at 325F for another 35-45 minutes.

Hot or cold, you can have it for breakfast, work/school lunch or picnic. It also freezes very well, so you can keep some extra until next time and then just pop it up and warm up in the oven. Enjoy your cooking! 

Makes 9-inch pie of about 6-8 servings.

2 cups cubed old gluten-free white bread (or old dense white bread of your choice)
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 cup cooked salmon, or 1 can (106 g), broken in pieces
3/4 cup milk
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons spelt flour (or wheat flour if you are gluten tolerant)
freshly ground nutmeg, pinch
1 to 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 teaspoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the old bread in cubes, spread onto the buttered pan and bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove and let it cool.
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute onions until translucent. Put aside to cool. Boil or steam broccoli florets for 1-2 minutes, drain and set aside. Mash the salmon with fork and mix with onions and broccoli. Spread the mix over the bread cubes.
In a bowl, mix well the eggs, flour, milk and a pinch of nutmeg. Pour the egg mix over the salmon mix evenly.
Top the layers with shredded cheese and bake at 350F for the first 15 minutes, then at 325F for another 35-45 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving for the flavors to set.

Father’s Day Sizzle: Bacon Wrapped Corn on the Cob

It’s the third Sunday of June. It’s Father’s Day, and it’s time to celebrate all the great Dads! Beer and muskoka chair (which arms make a super mini-table for a beer glass) are the two quintessential vices of the Father’s day (and a good book, in our case). And, for once, kids volunteer to cook for their parents. CHEEERS!

A nice BBQ sizzle goes hand in hand with them. Juicy T-bone steaks, smoky sausages, grilled veggies – enough variety to keep Daddy’s taste buds hoping and your grilling skills honed! And… bacon? Yes, bacon ingredient ultimately brings the grill feast to the next level. How not to burn it? Wrap it around the corn keeping the husks over! Here is how.

But first, a Father’s Day sentiment from us for a brief digression: Bonne fête des Pères, Papa! Voici ton Georges Brassens préféré et sa chanson superbe sur ses souvenirs d’enfance chantée par Patachou et lui-même.
Back to the dish. Bacon wrapped corn is a pretty well known dish but the often missing magic ingredient of this grill is butter for the final touch (the devil is in detail). Lime-chilli butter, in our case, laces the grilled smoky corn and bacon with a zest of spice and freshness and turns the dish in a real showstopper. Simply add a lime zest and a pinch of chilli flakes to your butter at the room temperature and mix well with fork to make it fluffy. I also add a few drops of lime juice to this mix. Prepare the lime-chilli butter up to 24 hrs in advance and keep it in the fridge to marry the flavors. This lime-chilli butter tastes so good and refreshing you can skip the bacon part and the dish will still taste superb!
The steps are as easy as: pull back the husks to remove silk keeping the husks attached; wrap the bacon around. Equally, you can use prosciutto or thinly sliced pancetta. Close the husks back and fix them with the butcher’s string. You can make them in advance and keep them in the fridge for a few hours. When it’s time for the grill, preheat your BBQ to medium heat and grill the wrapped corn for 15-20 minutes turning occasionally to char evenly. Some chefs ( suggests to soak corn with husks in the water for 30 minutes to prevent the corn from drying out on the grill, but I think if the corn is fresh from fields this step is not necessary. Serve immediately with lime-chilli butter, coarse salt and lime wedges on a side.

Bon Appétit and Have a Great One!!! T.

Bacon Wrapped Grilled Corn on the Cob with Lime Chilli Butter.
12 ears corn
1 pound bacon
1/4 lbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 lime zested
1/3 teaspoon chilli flakes (or to taste)
1 lime cut into wedges
coarse salt
Combine the butter, lime zest, chilli flakes and few drops of lime and keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Pull back the corn husks keeping them attached to the bottom of the cobs. Remove the corn silk. Take a strip of bacon and wrap it around the corn. Fold the husks back covering the bacon and corn and tie leaves with butcher string. Repeat the process with each corn. Place the ears of corn on the hot grill and cook turning occasionally until bacon is cooked and corn is tender, for about 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately with lime-chilli butter, coarse salt and lime wedges on a side.

Fabulous Pee Wee Scotch Eggs

Last week-end I made some awesome pee wee Scotch eggs. Scotch egg is an egg wrapped in a sausage meat and crumbs and then deep-fried or baked. The name of this dish has a weird association with a scotch tape, but for those who tried this ”pub grub” in its best – c’est un vrai délice”. This traditional British (Scottish obviously) pub and picnic dish was well forgotten outside Britain for decades until it made its come back few years ago when many celebrity chefs (i.e. Jamie Oliver, Laura Calder, Heston Blumenthal) featured it in their collections. Since then, Scotch eggs have been in their Renaissance and, hopefully soon we will see them in Montreal pubs as well. If necessary, you can transform the dish into gluten free by just swapping regular crumbs for gluten free (I am making them from gluten free bread leftovers). Or, for those on elimination diet, wrap the eggs with some ground chicken or turkey seasoned to your taste and bake the assembled eggs in an oiled pan.

Any kind of egg (chicken, duck, quail) can be used in this recipe. I prefer pee wee eggs (from young chicken): they make a great compromise – not as big as regular chicken egg (few eggs might easily take all your sausage meat), yet bigger than quail eggs, so you don’t overspend yourself on peeling. You will not find them in your usual supermarket, but most Asian groceries have them for less than 90 cents a dozen. As for the sausage meat, you can select fresh sausage of your choice and remove it from casing, or prepare your own sausage meat, or just use the Italian burger meat, like I did. A pinch of thyme, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, chopped parsley and/or chives or even parmesan are optional, but would add an extra layer of taste to the meat: choose what you like.
Although it does take a few stages to prepare, it’s worth the effort: adults and kids love them equally, hot or cold. You can opt for a runny yolk (just cook the egg for not more than a minute) if you wish to achieve that special effect of contrasting textures: I am sure, the result and taste will make you happy.
Scotch eggs can be prepared in advance (hard boiled egg version), transport beautifully and combine well with salads, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise, even hot sauce. They make an excellent snack for school or to watch a soccer or baseball game. I find hot Scotch eggs are great with coffee for breakfast while cold once are very good with wine. Add these ”Bird Nests” to your next picnic basket and you will impress everyone!
 Scotch Eggs Ahoy!
Scotch Eggs
6 hard boiled pee wee eggs (or 3 large chicken eggs)
1/2 lb sausage meat
1 egg beaten with a little bit of milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
frying oil
Boil the eggs to make hard eggs. Shell the eggs and wrap them with the sausage meat. Coat with beaten eggs mixture and breadcrumbs and fry in hot oil for about 3-4 minutes each until nicely browned. Optional: put them in the oven preheated to 190 C or 375 F for 5 minutes to make sure the sausage meat is cooked through. Cut each egg in half and serve either hot or cold.

Yellow Lab Rescues Blue Jay Chick

Although bird watching is widely considered to be a fascination of ”old fogies”, our admiration of birds began much earlier, with our first bird feeder. Suppose you are in your backyard and suddenly a red cardinal flies in or a blue jay comes to grab a peanut, how can you not forget everything and just freeze for a moment watching these amazing creations of nature? We are fairly new to the bird watching ”buena vista”, but a pair of grandpa’s binoculars helps.
This year a couple of blue jays decided to make a nest in our backyard. They made their nest in the pine tree branches, about 12+ feet above ground. The nest looks like a bulky cup made of twigs, leaves, roots, grass and moss. An interesting courtship-mating fact I dug out about blue jays: in early May generally a group of seven or more are gathered together on top of a pine tree. One female is among this group. When the female flies off, the males follow and land near her, bobbing their heads up and down, until the female eventually selects a mate and the nesting cycle follows. Only one or two broods are raised each season.
The jay couple seemed to be successfully going through their cycle until Sunday night when a piercing squeak woke us up at 2:30 AM. At around 6AM blue jays shrill chorus resumed with a triple force pushing me out of bed to close the windows to finally have some restful sleep (these birds are really called ”the biggest mouth” for a reason).
In the morning our nosy lab-doggie retrieved something under the pine tree and barked us up. A little squeaky jay birdie was sitting in the grass screaming for help. Cute and fluffy winged (although it did have something from a little vulture), it was good enough to jump, but not ready to fly. Its parents-jays were watching it from a pine tree. ”So this is what all that noise was about!”, I figured.
 At least it made it through the night – there are quite a few predators in our neighborhood including savage cats, ravenous crows, stinky skunks, voracious pekans, slimy snakes and even a hungry red fox sometimes coming from the fields.
We had to figure out a rescue plan fast. Despite the urban legend (about touching the baby bird), we agreed that the best was probably to return the baby jay to its nest. The nest was pretty high and required a ladder and some ingenuity. Once placed back in the nest, the baby jay instantly fell asleep. We watched the nest from a distance for a while just to confirm that the parent bird returns. It took a good several hours. Finally, the blue jay parent arrived with the worm in her mouth and went straight into the nest to feed the baby (by that time the baby bird was squeaking again). A blue jay family was happily reunited. This successfully unveils the myth that birds will reject babies handled by humans.
We were happy to help little chick and our doggie became a hero. The parent blue jay came to thank her personally and I think she acknowledged it. We had a good laugh about our panic which filled us with joy and reminded us that: ”The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift, that’s why it’s called ”the present.”
The end.