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

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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.

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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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