Shrimp Cocktail

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Simple, delicious, and most refreshing.

If everyone knew how easy shrimp cocktails are, they would indulge everyday.

I just love them, and my special twist here is the cucumber relish that I got from the sorbet recipe. Adam says it reminds him of Japan, it must be tasty then!

Ingredients for 2 servings:

1 to1 ½ dozen medium-size shrimps

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup hot pepper sauce

¼ cup horseradish

½ cup fresh cucumber relish

Salt and pepper to taste

Celery stalk and chive to garnish

1. If using raw shrimp, peel and blanch with boiling water for 1 min or until just pink.

2. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, hot pepper sauce, horseradish, salt and pepper.

3. Fill the bottom of cocktail glasses with the cucumber relish.

4. Layer the shrimp on the relish, saving a couple for garnish.

5. Pour the horseradish sauce on the shrimp.

6. Chill for at least 1 hr.

7. Garnish with celery and chive.


Cucumber Lime Sorbet

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Un peu, beaucoup.

Sceptical, maybe.

Just like my mum:' Un sorbet au quoi?!'

If you think about it, cucumbers are just of the same family as watermelon after all. A great thirst-quencher: just try a slice of cucumber in a glass of water instead of lemon! A bowl of gazpacho is another great option.

Cucumbers seem such an ordinary and bland fruit/vegetable, but if you are adventurous, this sorbet is definitely the way to go. This colorful sorbet surprisingly captures the freshness and the light-melon flavour of the fruit.

It is also extremely easy to make: I just whizzed the fruit with sugar and salt into a smoothie, that I passed through a strainer to collect the juice. To avoid wasting food, I saved the remaining pulp and used it in my shrimp cocktail recipe. I stirred the zest and the juice of one lime into the dark green juice, that I chilled in the fridge. Before churning the sorbet in the icecream maker , I stirred in some of Adam's pepper-flavoured vodka to limit ice crystal formation. Feel free to experiment with a slice of watermelon. Et voilà!

Ingredients for about 2/3 quart:

2 English cucumbers (about 2 pounds)

½ cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 lime zest and juice

1 tablespoon pepper-flavoured vodka

1. Wash and slice the cucumbers.

2. Purée the cucumber with the sugar and salt until smooth.

3. Pass the cucumber smoothie through a strainer, pressing firmly on the cucumber to extract all the liquid (NB: I saved the pulp as relish for my shrimp cocktail recipe).

4. Zest and press the lime into the cucumber juice.

5. Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

6. Stir in the vodka and freeze in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

7. Transfer into a plastic container and store in the freezer. (Don't forget to take it out of the freezer 10 mins before scooping)


Madagascar Vanilla Semifreddo with Pine Nut Pralines

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Summer is well under way and, after 2 weeks offline, it's time to catch up with my recipes! And my favourite blogs...David Lebovitz just published a tasty compilation of ice cream delights from around the blogosphere.
I have here a semifreddo - a half-frozen Italian ice cream, as creamy and rich as ice cream but soft. To balance the softness of this vanilla semifreddo, I folded in pine nut pralines for sweetness and crunch. The other advantage of this recipe is that you don't need an icecream maker to freeze the mixture. The air trapped in the whipped cream and the meringue during the whisking processes helps the ice cream freeze without hardening. Just what you need to perfect scoops.
This icecream is quite simple to make. I made the pine nut pralines first so that they cooled, starting with a caramel into which I stirred roasted pine nuts. I spread the hot caramel-nut mixture onto a greased baking sheet and let the brittle cool. I separated the eggs and beat the yolks with sugar and Madagascar vanilla. I whipped the cream and stirred it into the yolk mixture. I whisked the whites into a meringue, which I folded into the yolk mixture. I pulverised and stirred half the pralines into the vanilla cream and saved the rest to top the scoops.

Adapted from this book:
Ingredients for about 1 liter:
1 cup whipping cream
4 large eggs
¼ cup sugar
1 Madagascar vanilla bean
Pinch of salt

For the pralines:
1 cup pine nuts
¼ cup water
1 cup sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Toast the pine nuts for 8 mins or until golden.
3. Let cool.
4. In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium high heat.
5. Lightly grease a baking sheet with butter.
6. Let boil for 5 mins until the caramel turns golden.
7. Stir in the cooled pine nuts and let simmer until the caramel browns.
8. Remove from heat and spread over the greased baking sheet using a spatula.
9. Let the pralines cool to room temperature.
10. Pulverise half of the pralines using a food processor and coarsely break the other half into pieces.
11. Separate the eggs.
12. In a bowl, beat together egg whites and salt until firm.
13. In another bowl, mix together the egg yolks with the vanilla and the sugar until light yellow.
14. In a third bowl, whip the cream into soft peaks.
15. Mix cream and yolks.
16. Gently fold the whites and the praline powder into the yolk mixture.
17. Transfer into a plastic container and freeze for at least 3 hours.

Red Onion Compote, Sun Dried Tomato, Black Olive and Stilton Tartlets

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Two weeks already!

Not that I forgot…to eat.

Where was I? Just on a WiFi break really. At the farm.

To make up for my time off, I made these light, sweet and savoury tartlets. In this recipe, I decided to experiment with olive oil for the pastry, instead of using butter. I was pleasantly surprised by the result. Not only was it extremely easy to make, but it also turned out light and crisp. Very much like a sablé. For the filling, I took advantage of the natural sweetness of red onions by preparing a compote, which I used as a base for the tartlets. To complement the sweet filling, I topped the onions with sun-dried tomatoes, Moroccan black olives and creamy Stilton.

A perfect summer meal, served with some garden lettuce.

Ingredients for 6 tartlets:

Olive oil pastry

200 g all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

1 large red onion

¼ cup butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup red wine

¼ cup sugar

½ cup sun dried tomatoes

6 ounces stilton cheese

½ cup Moroccan black olives

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh basil leaves

1. In a bowl, stir together flour, olive oil and salt until obtaining a coarse meal.

2. Add in the water and form a ball.

3. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least ½ hour.

4. In a saucepan, heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat.

5. Mince and stir in the onion.

6. Let cook for about 20 mins until soft.

7. Add the wine, sugar, salt and pepper.

8. Let simmer for another 30 mins, until all the wine has evaporated.

9. Remove from heat and let cool.

10. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
11. Line the tartlet pans with parchment paper.

12. Press the dough into the lined pans.

13. Bake blind for 20 mins, until golden.

14. Let cool on a rack.

15. Layer the crusts with red onion compote.

16. Coarsely chop tomatoes and olives and spread over the compote.

17. Crumble the cheese over the tartlets.

18. Bake for 15 mins, until the cheese has melted.

19. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with porchetta and garden salad.


Sour Cherry and White Chocolate Ice Cream

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Que faire avec des griottes? Fanny was just asking.

I have here a delicious and refreshing way to enjoy sour cherries. Try this sweet and delicious white chocolate ice cream. Yes! I know. For the chocolate purists, white chocolate has been stripped off all cocoa powder and, therefore is not “real chocolate”.
However, I do not think that anyone who could possibly say no to a scoop of this unctuous, sweet-and-sour treat to keep cool these days! If you prefer dark chocolate, you could always substitute the nuts and white chocolate chunks for cherries in this chocolate sorbet.
Using sweet warm milk and egg yolks, I first prepared custard which I poured hot over white chocolate chunks. Once the chocolate melted, I stirred in heavy cream and chilled the mixture in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I froze the mixture in the ice cream maker and folded the drained sour cherries into the freshly churned ice cream. I saved then reduced the syrup to drizzle on the scoops.

Adapted from the
Perfect Scoop

Ingredients for 1½ liters:

1 cup whole milk

2/3 cup sugar

Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks (you can freeze the egg whites or use them for meringue cookies, another great accompaniment for ice cream)
8 ounces white chocolate chunks (I used Callebaut white chocolate)
2 cups heavy cream
1 16-ounce pitted sour cherries in light syrup (unless you can find fresh sour cherries to poach)

1. In a saucepan, warm the milk, sugar and salt over medium-high heat.

2. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks while slowly pouring the sweet warm milk.

3. Transfer the mixture into the saucepan.

4. Constantly stir using a wooden spoon over medium high heat until the mixture thickens to coat the spoon.

5. Pass the custard through a sieve onto the chocolate chunks.

6. Whisk until the chocolate has melted and stir in the cream.

7. Let cool to room temperature and chill overnight.

8. Vigorously whisk the chilled mixture and freeze in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

9. Drain then fold the sour cherries into the white chocolate ice cream, saving the syrup in a small saucepan.

10. Transfer into a plastic container and store in the freezer.

11. To make the sour cherry drizzle, add one to two tablespoons of sugar to the syrup and bring to a boil over medium high heat.

12. Reduce by half and let cool to room temperature.

13. Transfer into a jar and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Barbecued Baby Artichokes

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How did you enjoy Canada Day?
Just like Dana, I took most of my Canada day away from the kitchen. Not by choice!
First thing I heard that morning: “Wake up! You forgot to turn the hose off yesterday and you drained all the water out! We have no water left!”
As I stumbled out of bed to check for the hose: “Noooo!?!”
That couldn’t be right, of course. “I turned the hose off yesterday!!!” BUT sure enough, 8:00 am Canada Day and three EPCOR vans were parked along our sidewalks! Truth was our street had no water.
A dent in the emergency water pack and five and half hours of back-hoe action later…the water was back!

Missed the Free Pancake Breakfast at the Legislature and the Silly Summer Parade!
Oh well! The rest of the afternoon went much more smoothly. Lucky us.
I posted some quick and easy barbecue recipes earlier this week, and I hope that you have had a chance to enjoy a few of them. For the picnic aficionados, I just found 101 great ideas here, and I thought you might also try this very simple way to eat baby artichokes. Why not with some salt-crust rainbow trout?


4-6 baby artichokes

1 lime zest and juice

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cloves

Salt and pepper

1. In a bowl, zest and squeeze the lime.

2. Whisk in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, cloves, salt and pepper.

3. To prepare the artichokes, peel off 2-3 layers of the hard, outer petals.

4. Cut the stems and 1 ½ inch off the tips.

5. Half each artichoke and toss into the dressing.

6. Marinate in the fridge for ½ hour.

7. Grill for 5 mins per side, starting with the outer layer, until softened.


Pecan Molasses Lace Cookies

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I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

But there is always a quest for the best accompaniment to my, your, our péché mignon ­– which, believe it or not, literally translates into cute sin! Fresh fruit, crême Chantilly, chocolate or butterscotch fudge sauces…as far as your sweet tooth and imagination can go!

I made these oversized lace cookies to go with my chocolate sorbet, and they bring the perfect buttery sweetness and crunch to balance its rich and intense flavour. They are quick and easy to make. I just melted together butter, fancy molasses and sugar, and stirred in Madagascar vanilla extract, chopped pecans, and flour. I dropped the dough onto lined baking sheets and baked the cookies for 12 mins until golden brown. I left the lace cookies on the baking sheet for 2 mins, until cooled but malleable enough to handle, and I transferred them onto a rolling pin for shaping before cooling on the rack. Feel free to try and enjoy them with any other ice cream!

Ingredients for 1 dozen oversized cookies:

¼ cup butter

¼ cup fancy molasses

¼ cup crystallised sugar

¼ teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract

½ cup pecans

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. In a small saucepan, stir together butter, molasses, and sugar over medium high heat, until melted.

3. Coarsely chop the pecans.

4. Remove from heat and stir in Madagascar vanilla extract, chopped pecans, and flour.

5. Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Drop the dough using a tablespoon onto lined baking sheets, leaving 3 inches between the mounds to allow the cookies to expand.

7. Bake the cookies for 12 mins until golden brown.

8. Leave the lace cookies on the baking sheet for 2 mins, until cooled but malleable enough to handle.

9. Transfer onto a rolling pin for shaping.

10. Cool completely on the rack.

Choco-Therapy: Macadamia Nuts and White Chocolate Chunks Chocolate Sorbet

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I just made the most decadent sorbet ever!

Three days of heat!

9:30 am, as I tend to my watering duty, the morning fresh air has almost vanished, and so have the shades of the Manitoba maples and the choke cherry trees.

11 am – 27 °C inside, full sun outside, and the air in our little old house is getting still and stifling hot by the minute.

No worries! It’s ice cream time! Technically, I cannot call this treat an ice cream because there is no milk or cream in the recipe, but this sorbet captures all the depth and richness of dark chocolate. The macadamia nuts and the white chocolate chunks are scattered through the intense dark velvet as little nuggets of sweetness.

The sweet smell of chocolate lingered in the house for two days! I started with hot chocolate by boiling together cocoa powder and sugar in water. Away from the heat, I thickened the hot chocolate by adding finely chopped bittersweet chocolate and whisking until I obtained a smooth mixture. After adding some vanilla, I chilled the chocolate mixture overnight and churned it the next morning. I added the nuts and chocolate chunks just before transferring the sorbet into a plastic container and freezing.

Don’t forget to take it out of the freezer a few minutes before scooping! Enjoy with a dollop of whipped cream and a pecan molasses lace cookie!

Adapted from the Perfect Scoop.

Ingredients for 1 dozen oversized cookies:

¼ cup butter

¼ cup fancy molasses

¼ cup crystallised sugar

¼ teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract

½ cup pecans

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Finely chop the bittersweet chocolate using a serrated knife.

2. Stir together cocoa powder, sugar, water and salt in a saucepan.

3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent the hot mixture from boiling over.

4. After boiling for 1 min, remove from the heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate until obtaining a smooth and homogenous mixture.

5. Whisk in the vanilla and chill the mixture in the fridge overnight.

6. Vigorously whisk the chilled mixture and freeze in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

7. Coarsely chop macadamia nuts and white chocolate chunks and add to the sorbet at the end of the freezing process.

8. Transfer into a plastic container and freeze for at least 4 hours, until set.


Barbecue Galore!

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This is the week of long weekends between Madagascar's Independance Day, Canada Day and Independance Day! The long awaited 30°C- weather has finally hit the Prairies and my charcoal barbecue has been on for very tasty meals!

These hot days, I haven’t even thought about turning the stove top on, let alone the oven! The garden has been doing great this year and we got to eat our radish the other day – I LOVE them with butter, salt, and pepper. Don’t you? We have almost been enjoying our garden lettuce for the past 2 weeks!

Just like the plants, I have been relishing the perfect, sunny and hot, weather and I have here a smorgasbord of barbecue ideas for you to try and serve with your favourite salad…and the best thing about barbecue is that Italian herbs like oregano, thyme, or curry, salt and pepper are just enough to enhance the smokiness of the charcoal.

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Barbecued steaks and kohlrabi

Ingredients for 2 servings:

2 rib eye, sirloin or T-bone steaks

2 kohlrabis

1 lemon

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and slice the kohlrabi into a medium bowl.

2. Add lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper.

3. Marinate for ½ hour in the fridge.

4. Just before grilling, season the steaks and drizzle with olive oil.

5. For medium-rare 1 inch-thick steaks, barbecue for 3 to 5 mins per side, using tongs for turning. (To check for doneness: press the meat with a finger and compare the pressure with the resistance of the muscle at the base of your thumb when joining your middle finger with your thumb).

6. Barbecue the kohlrabi slices for 5 mins per side until softened.

7. Remove the steaks from the heat and allow to rest for 5 mins before serving with the kohlrabi.

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Barbecued smelts

Ingredients for 2 servings:

1 pound frozen smelts

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse the smelts and rub with salt, pepper and olive oil.

2. Barbecue for 3 to 5 mins per side, using tongs for turning, until the skin curls up.

3. Serve immediately.

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Barbecued bocconcini and capicollo bison burgers and corn on the cob

Ingredients for 2 servings:

2 bison burger patties (from the Farmer’s market or the Italian center)

2 slices capicollo or ham

1 medium bocconcini cheese

2 ears of corn

Italian herbs

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel back the husk for each ear of corn and remove the silk.

2. Bring back the husk over the cob.

3. Soak the ears in cold water for at least 30 mins.

4. Drain for 5 mins and place on the coals for 15-20 mins turning frequently to prevent burning.

5. Season the bison burger with Italians herbs and barbecue for 5-8 mins per side.

6. Place a slice of capicollo on each patty.

7. Slice and place the bocconcino on the capicollo.

8. Barbecue until the cheese has started melting and serve immediately. (I usually smother my corn with butter, salt and pepper.)


Buttermilk Rhubarb Pastis Swirl Sherbet

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Yeah! Summer finally!

No heat wave in Alberta and I can still hear Lynne’s rant “I want my 30°C weather!!!” I miss Montreal and its steaming hot days without air conditioning in our apartment, nothing to beat the heat but two monster fans and anything cold!

In my top 3 ways to keep cool, I have (1) a dip in the blue, (2) a refreshing girly cocktail and (3) ice cream. Option 1 is definitely not feasible in Alberta - unless you pretend that Sylvan Lake is on the ocean – while options 2 and 3 are easier to achieve. A glass of sweet Tomate, minty Perroquet, or Hemingway’s Death in The Afternoon pastis cocktail maybe? I have here an even cooler way to enjoy pastis and rhubarb this summer.

With your ice cream mixture and a little planning, all you need is an ice cream machine! Mine is a very simple one: it comes as an electric mixer with 2-quarts containers that you pre-freeze for at least 24 hours and gets your sorbet or the ice cream mixture churned within 20 mins.

How many calories per scoop? Instead of using a custard cream, I opted for a healthier buttermilk sherbet, adapted from the Perfect Scoop, into which I stirred a pastis rhubarb compote. Because the recipe requires heating, I prepared the syrup and the compote the night before. Chilling overnight cools the mixture thoroughly, making the churning step a breeze. The tangy buttermilk and the anis-flavoured rhubarb make the perfect and most refreshing treat on a hot summer day.

Ingredients for about 1½ liter sherbet:

For the buttermilk sherbet:

1/3 cup water

2/3 cup sugar

1 lemon zest and juice

2 cups buttermilk

For the pastis-rhubarb compote:

12 ounces rhubarb

2/3 cup water

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon pastis

1. In a medium saucepan, heat water, sugar, lemon zest and juice to a boil over medium-high heat.

2. Remove for heat and let cool to room temperature before chilling in the refrigerator overnight.

3. In another saucepan bring to a boil rhubarb, sugar, and water and let simmer until the rhubarb is softened.

4. Remove from heat and purée until smooth. (Note: Using an immersion blender is the easiest method, but you can use a regular blender or a food processor)

5. Add the pastis to the rhubarb purée and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

6. Stir the buttermilk into the chilled syrup and freeze in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

7. Transfer into a plastic container.

8. Gently fold the compote into the freshly churned sherbet for a marbled effect.

9. Freeze for at least 4 hours, until set.


Strawberry Ricotta Charlotte

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Strawberry fields forever.

I don’t know why, but whenever I see this many strawberries I cannot help but think about the song. As I hear Lennon’s dreamy voice, I can see myself walking down fields of strawberries, stretching to infinity. Picking as many strawberries as my basket can hold, tasting the juiciest and sweetest along the way.

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Well, not quite there yet with my hanging baskets! But our real, sun-bathed berries taste just like in my strawberry field dream, as sweet as candy and no trace of red 40. Just like the traditional shortcake, strawberry charlotte makes a perfect dessert on a warm summery evening. I lined a springform pan with ladyfingers moistened with kirsch-flavoured syrup, added a layer of sliced strawberries and cream, repeated with another ladyfinger-strawberries-cream layer to finish with ladyfingers. For a lighter dessert, I decided to use ricotta cheese sweetened with honey instead of making the rich, traditional custard filling. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did!!!

Ingredients for 6-8 servings:

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup honey

1 pound strawberries

24 (2 packages) large ladyfingers (Pick the largest ladyfingers!!!)

1 cup water

½ cup sugar

¼ cup kirsch

1. Rinse and slice the strawberries.

2. In a bowl mix the ricotta with honey using a fork.

3. In a small saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil over medium heat.

4. Remove from heat and add the liqueur.

5. Dip the ladyfingers in the warm syrup to moisten.

6. Line the bottom and the sides of a springform pan with one layer of ladyfingers.

7. Layer half of the cheese mixture on the ladyfingers.

8. Layer half of the strawberries on the cheese.

9. Add a second layer of moistened ladyfingers.

10. Layer with the rest of the cheese and the strawberries.

11. Cover with the last layer of moistened ladyfingers, making sure that the sugared side faces up.

12. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hrs.

Rhubarb Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Muffins

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Mid-June already and you know summer is almost here when you can enjoy a leisurely brunch in the backyard. Fruit salad, pastries and fresh cup of your favorite caffeine fix laid out on the patio table.* Sigh*

Our rhubarb has grown to a giant bush – perfect hiding spot for the cats. Red stalks up straight, ready for harvesting and for all the treats and desserts you can imagine… How about using some stalks for some tasty buttermilk muffins for breakfast? And because it is the most important meal of the day, I thought I’d better add a few chocolate chips to start it right.

A few minutes to whip up and bake the muffins, just enough to prepare the fruit salad and the tea… and back to the yard!

Ingredients for one dozen large muffins:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

¾ cup buttermilk

2/3 cup safflower oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

cup fresh or frozen rhubarb

½ cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. In a bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract using a whisk.

3. In another bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. Stir the rhubarb and chocolate into the flour mixture.

5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until the ingredients are just combined.

6. Brush the muffin cups with oil and fill with batter.

7. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

8. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.


Asparagus Zucchini and Cherry Tomato Frittatta

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I have been quite busy enjoying the sun and fresh air to spend time fiddling around in the kitchen lately. After 2 hours pulling off the weeds and cultivating the fast growing vegetable garden, the last thing on my mind is cooking up a three course meal or anything sophisticated.

Still! Just enough energy to chop some vegetables and beat half dozen eggs for a tasty frittata! Good anytime: breakfast, lunch or dinner with one or two pieces of toast.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

1 small onion

1 cup cremini mushrooms

6 anchovies

12 asparagus spears

1 cup cherry tomatoes

3 celery stalks with leaves

2 zucchini squash

6 eggs

¼ cup cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Italian parsley to garnish

1. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat in an oven-safe pan.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

3. Chop onions, mushrooms, celery, and zucchini.

4. Stir fry chopped onions, celery and mushrooms with the anchovies for 5 mns.

5. Add the tomatoes and zucchini.

6. Snap the asparagus and layer on the softened vegetables.

7. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with salt and pepper using a fork.

8. Pour the egg mixture into the pan.

9. Top with cheese and bake for 15-20 mns.

Aniswood Cookies

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Still happily celebrating the return of Spring! Choke cherry trees and lilac are blossoming and their heady fragrances are attracting bees and wasps into our garden. I love waking up to the chirping of the sparrow and their chicks. I even surprised a couple of blue jays and cardinals playing underneath the arcs of water while I was watering the lawn.

Hard to do any cooking when the backyard is warm and inviting, but I made the quickest cookies in the world the other day.

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Simples comme bonjour!

18 mns flat, including baking! For these no-butter cookies, I just whisked all the ingredients together in a bowl and freshly grated aniswood bark into the batter. Yes, aniswood again. I just can’t get enough of this spice and, literally, I still have a bucketful to go through so no sense being stingy! Feel free to substitute with freshly ground fennel or anis seeds! Another point: unlike regular drop cookies, the dough is essentially a batter but do not fret! 15 mins in the oven and these cookies will keep your sweet tooth satisfied.

Ingredients for 3 dozen:

4 eggs

1½ cup sugar

1¾ cup all purpose flour

1 tablespoon anis wood (Substitute with fennel seeds)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Mix eggs and sugar in a large bowl using a whisk.

3. Stir in the flour and the aniswood.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Drop the disks of batter onto the lined baking sheet using a tablespoon.

6. Bake for 15 mns until golden.

7. Let cool on the baking sheet and store in an airtight container.

For other recipes using aniswood:

- Pain d'Epices

- Smokey Red Peppercorn Crusted Mahi Mahi on Sauteed Peas and New Potatoes

- Slow Braised Short Ribs


Buttermilk Rice Pudding with Strawberries, Chocolate and Black Muscat

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Rice pudding, riz au lait in French, is one of my childhood favourites – just enough rice, milk, sugar and vanilla and you get a creamy dessert. Very easy. To offset the richness of the pudding, I substituted the milk with buttermilk and used my star ingredients in compote and a sauce.

We finally opened the Black Muscat we brought back from our spring 2006 road trip to Vancouver and Salt Spring Islands! Not that we forgot about it. Far from it, we just wanted to save it for the right time: with Tuscan melon and Bresaola, or, for dessert, in the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote or in the Dark Chocolate Sauce.

BC Wines from the warm and dry Okanagan Valley were familiar to us, but we had never heard of any from the Islands. A few stops along the wine trail, quite pleasantly surprised by these exceptional yet unknown vineyards! Nothing to do with the Napa Valley I visited as a teenager, simple and familial just like in Sideways.

So impressed after our first taste at Blue Grouse, that we stocked the car with 2 cases of Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Ortega. A little tipsy after the generous servings – I must admit- but sober enough to drive on. Just in time for lunch we reached the Zanatta winery: delicious homemade food to savour with a glass of their Glenora Fantasia or Pinot Nero in the sun-bathed bucolic patio. Another case of Pinot Nero and Spumante and more in the trunk and off we went! With enough bottles to open a shop and plans for another trip to the Islands!

Two years later, we managed to save the Muscat and the Devinette – going online soon to order. The Black Muscat is not as sweet as Port and makes a perfect addition for the strawberry rhubarb compote or in the dark chocolate sauce which accompany the rice pudding.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

1 cup round rice

2 cups water

3 cups buttermilk

1/3 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 vanilla bean

¼ cup unsalted butter

For the strawberry rhubarb compote:

2 cups rhubarb

1 cup strawberries

¼ cup sugar

½ cup Black Muscat (substitute with Port)

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For the chocolate sauce:

½ cup dark chocolate

¼ cup Black Muscat

Strawberries to garnish

1. In a medium saucepan heat buttermilk, sugar, salt and split vanilla bean to a gentle simmer.

2. Bring the water to a boil in a medium another saucepan.

3. Cook the rice for 2 mins in the boiling water, strain using a sieve and rinse thoroughly with cold water.

4. Stir the rice into the buttermilk and let simmer for 20 mins, until soft.

5. Stir in the butter.

6. Enjoy warm or chilled.

7. To prepare the strawberry rhubarb compote filling, place rhubarb, sugar, and Black Muscat in a saucepan.

8. Bring to a gentle simmer while stirring and cover until the fruit is tender.

9. Add the strawberries and let simmer for 5 mins.

10. To prepare the chocolate sauce, place chocolate and Black Muscat in a small bowl.

11. Stir over a double-boiler until the chocolate is melted.


Salt Crust Rainbow Trout and Fennel Radicchio Salad

(click on the picture for more..)

Just enough time to catch a glimpse at my plants last weekend!

One week of rain and peas, radish, beans and spinach have grown another inch or two. Our carrots and cucumbers are finally poking out of the ground.

(click on the picture for more gardening pictures)

Feels like fish, preferably on the grill.

How about these gorgeous rainbow trout?

It is so rare to find fresh fish at conventional grocery stores in Alberta that we spotted them right away. They so fresh, shiny and clear-eyed fish on crushed ice! These spotted freshwater fish were easy to recognize because of the typical red band along their spine. They must have come from British Columbia or one the neighbouring American states.

I wasn’t too sure where they came from, but they certainly reminded me of camping in Buffalo Lake and learning how to cast a fishing line. I did not catch anything that time, except for some old boot and a lot of algae.

The trout are so delicate that I decided on a salt crust instead of grilling them. I LOVE the salt crust because the crust - which is easy to brush off- protects the fish from the heat and preserves the moisture and softness of the trout. Very simple! I completely covered the fish in Kosher salt and wrapped them in foil after filling their bellies with bay leaves. A few minutes on the barbecue (or in the oven if raining) et voilà! The fennel and radicchio salad are just what I craved for…

Ingredients for 2 servings:

2 whole rainbow trout, cleaned

2 cups Kosher or coarse sea salt

6-8 bay leaves


Olive oil

1. Lightly brush the inner cavity of each fish with salt, pepper and olive oil.

2. Fill the fish with bay leaves (Tip: Do not overstuff or the crust will seep through).

3. Tear rectangles of aluminum foil large enough to individually wrap each trout.

4. Spread ½ cup of salt on each piece of foil.

5. Pat the fish with paper towel and place the fish on top of the salt.

6. Entirely cover with the rest of the salt, pressing to form a crust.

7. Chill for at least 1 hr to consolidate the crust.

8. Light up the barbecue.

9. When the coals are ready, barbecue the foil-wrapped trout for 20-30 mins, flipping the fish after 10-15 mins.

10. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 mins.

11. Gently remove the salt crust and serve with fennel and radicchio salad.

Fennel and Radicchio Salad


1 large fennel bulb

1 small radicchio

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Italian parsley

Olive oil

1. In a large bowl, mix together jemon juice and zest, 2 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Thinly slice fennel, radicchio, and cherry tomatoes and toss the dressing.

3. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.