The Sweetest Crumb

Dining in Paris – Shu, Les Cocottes, Le Trumilou

Since we moved to Paris at the end of January, we have loved discovering the city and all the delicious dining options. For anyone who is wondering where we’ve been eating, here are a few of our most memorable dinners from the past 6 weeks.

Shu

One of the first things we did after the big move to Paris is go for dinner at Shu. We saw this cute Japanese restaurant on our last visit to Paris and were immediately drawn to it because of the tiny door you need to go through to get inside. I really wanted to try it last year but unfortunately we found it towards the end of our trip and were unable to secure a reservation. I was so disappointed last year that Sean tried to cheer me up, saying that when we move to Paris Shu would be the first place we go for dinner. I brushed off his promises, thinking that we would never seriously move to Paris. However, a year and a half later we are here and this is indeed the first place we went for dinner – as promised.

Shu has three set menus to choose from, which all include kushiague – different types of meat, seafood and vegetables deep fried on skewers.

Overall,  while the meal was good, I would have liked to see a few more fresh options included in the set menus to balance out the deep fried foods – I found the meal a bit too heavy and salty. However, the staff was very friendly and since the dinner was more symbolic for us than anything else, I loved it.


8, rue Suger 75006 Paris
+33 (0)1 46 34 25 88
Monday – Saturday
18h30 – 23n30

 

Les Cocottes

Our second dining experience in Paris was at Les Cocottes. We read about the restaurant on David Lebovitz’s list of Paris restaurant recommendations. To be honest we’ve been relying quite heavily on all of David Lebovitz‘s articles on living and eating in Paris. He has articles on everything from tipping in France, to public transport to where to find groceries. They are so helpful for anyone who is visiting or moving to Paris and I can’t recommend them enough. And after spending so much time on his site, I was stoked to meet him at a book signing last month!

Ok now back to Les Cocottes. This restaurant is in the 7th arrondissement, about 5 minutes walking from the Eiffel Tower. We had great service here and were pleased to see that the prices were actually really reasonable for a restaurant in such a popular tourist area. I found the food fantastic and this is probably my favourite dinner to date in Paris.

Since they don’t take reservations and the small space can get crowded, we sat at the bar and started with a few glasses of wine.

Based on the name of the restaurant, you may have guessed that it is known for dishes served in cocottes, fireproof dishes in which individual sized meals are cooked and served. We decided to share the potatoes farcie (stuffed) with pied de porc (pig’s feet) cocotte. I’d never had this type of meat before but our waitress assured us that it was delicious, tender and not fatty. The potatoes were cooked perfectly, caramelized on top. The meat was as delicious as she had promised and I would have gladly eaten the entire cocotte myself. We also decided to share “La vraie salade César Ritz”. This is the restaurant’s take on the traditional César salad and while it photographed terribly, it tasted fantastic. The salad had a generous amount of chicken, hard boiled eggs and croutons. The dressing was perfectly rich and creamy. This salad was really memorable and I would gladly return to order it again. Overall, the dining experience here was excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Les Cocottes!


135, rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris
from 12h00 to 15h30, from 18h30 to 22h30 (23h fridays and saturdays)

 

Le Trumilou

Le Trumilou is a small bistro which serves classic French dishes. The restaurant is fairly casual and dishes are simple and unpretentious yet the meals are comforting and satisfying. The menu is very meat-focused with several wild game options.


We went with the fixed menu of the day. I started with the shrimp and avocado cream. This was a very refreshing choice, but I would have liked to see a bit more strong flavours used in the dish.

Sean went with the charcuterie plate. I am usually a bit hesitant of various jellified meats but I must say I thought the three choices served as part of the appetizer were really delicious. Again, the plate was very simple, but the quality of the meat was evident, making for a tasty appetizer.

For the entree, I went with the guinea fowl. The meat was stewed with potatoes and a flavourful broth. It was perfectly tender, aromatic and falling off the bones. Sean went with the goat (sorry no photos) which was well-prepared in a simple sauce to highlight the flavours of the meat itself.

Overall, we enjoyed Le Trumilou. It is a welcoming French bistro that serves up well-prepared classics at reasonable prices. This is not the type of place where you are likely to see the chefs experimenting with new flavours or modern dishes. However, when you have a hankering for a traditionally prepared cut of good quality meat, this is the place to go.


84 Quai de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004 Paris
00 33 (0)1 42 77 63 98

The Beginning at Ferrandi

Thursday marked one month since we got off the plane in France. It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to everyone I love back home, but at the same time it is exciting to start a new adventure in an incredible city.

Eiffel Tower as seen during an evening stroll

Less than a week after arriving in Paris, I started pastry school. The first few days in class were spent with orientations, kitchen tours, getting our tools and uniforms (which include a stylish hair net/bonnet as well as shoes which look like they’re from the 80′s).

This year there are 27 international students in the Anglophone pastry program (and about the same number in the cuisine program). Each of the programs were split into two groups (Pastry Anglo A for me, with 13 other students). My classmates come from a variety of countries: the US, Canada, Taiwan, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Brazil, Kuwait and Thailand. Since the program doesn’t require any prior industry experience, I was surprised to find that a lot of the students have previous experience working in bakeries, restaurants or have previous culinary or pastry schooling – a little intimidating from someone who hasn’t really baked anywhere outside their own kitchen. Our chef is amazing – he has so much experience and knowledge, is so helpful and hilarious. I constantly find myself cracking up at his jokes.

Our days consist mostly of time in the kitchen, with hands on experience. However, we also have classes covering theory, French language, wine (with tastings and dessert pairings to come) and art classes. Our schedule varies on a daily and weekly basis. We alternate having kitchen time in the mornings at 8:00am or in the afternoons starting at 2:00pm. The other half of the day is usually filled with theory classes, French, etc. Sometimes we have half days. Lunch is served for free at the school, but is really disappointing. At first I found it really surprising that the food served at a culinary school is so terrible, but I later learned that the lunch services are subcontracted out to a third party (no Ferrandi student would make vegetables so mushy and tasteless!). Other than these subpar lunches, everything at school has been fantastic so far. I have been fascinated by everything we’ve learned and can’t remember the last time I took notes so eagerly on a topic I am so passionate about.

Sample weekly schedule:

The program is called the Intensive Professional Program in French Pastry and it definitely seems intensive thus far. Most days are hectic and busy, with us often leaving the kitchens an hour later than scheduled and making it to the cafeteria with only minutes before they close. The standards for our work are high. Our work is constantly criticized and sometimes (part-seriously, part-jokingly) called “disgusting” – there is no sugar coating here, so to speak. But we’re told not to take the criticisms personally, learn from them and improve our work. It is clear why this program yields such well-trained professionals, and why the employment rate for graduates of Ferrandi is so high (97%). Despite classes being occasionally overwhelming, I absolutely love every part of it so far. I don’t remember the last time I was able to wake up each morning and go do something I’m passionate about for the entire day… over and over again. There have been a few times when I was standing in the lab, rolling out dough and I was struck with the realization of how lucky I am to be in pastry school. It’s hard to believe that had I not found the courage to take this leap, I would been dragging myself through yet another stressful, unfullfilling busy season of auditing right now. Hopefully that’s a sign that I made the right decision in coming here!

So you’re probably wondering what we’ve learned in the first few weeks of class. We started with tarts, working with pâte sucrée and pâte à foncer.

pâte à foncer - a basic shortcrust dough which has a sturdy texture, retains its shape well when baked

pâte sucrée – a sweet dough, more crumbly and soft than pâte à fonder, puffs out when baked

We worked with some traditional French recipes as well as some contemporary ones, such as the famous vanilla bean and coffee tart recipes developed by Pierre Hermé. We learned proper techniques for rolling the dough, lining the tart ring and pinching the edges. When I realized on the first day in the kitchen that all the tarts would be baked not in a tart pan but in a ring (with no bottom!) I was sure that the dough would just fall right out through the bottom. However, no major tart casualties ensued.

Tarte aux Pommes // Flan Parisienne // Tarte au Citron, Tarte Orange // Tarte au Chocolate // Tarte Dacquoise // Coffee Tart

We then moved on to working with puff pastry dough. I had never made my own puff pastry before, so I found the process really interesting. We made both traditional and inverse puff pastry dough, with the butter either on the inside our outside of your dough respectively. We learned the techniques for folding, turning and relaxing the puff pastry dough and came away with these delicious treats:

Tart Bands // Pithivier // Palmiers // Mille-feuille Traditionnel

The above photos are just a sample of all the things we’ve made at pastry school so far. Essentially, I come home each day with boxes filled with baking. My biggest concern so far is finding people to give away all these sweets too. Everyone from our neighbours, the owners of the small restaurant we live above and homeless people in our neighbourhood have all been helping us polish off the past month’s baking. So… if you’re in the Paris area, you should definitely say hi and take some sweets off my hands!

 

My Long Absence and Big News

For a long time I dreamed about going to pastry school in France, but this far-fetched dream was always buried in the back of my mind by far more rational, responsible thoughts. Finishing my practical Bachelor of Commerce degree and going on to obtain my Chartered Accountant designation has occupied my mind for the last 5 years or so. These goals have since become accomplishments and while I am proud of these achievements, I was exhausted from a job that I found unfulfilling. I was left feeling unsatisfied both personally and professionally. I was over worked and so stressed that my career started taking a toll on both my health and relationships. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but at some point I decided that I should no longer be at a job where each day I struggled to force myself to get out of bed. While it became clear that this type of work was just not right for me at this point in my life, I left my firm with the utmost respect for my peers and mentors, and haven’t closed the door on returning to professional accounting later in life.

I simply decided that I needed a change for my own well-being, if nothing else. I was terrified to make a huge, potentially life-altering change. But one day, perhaps during a bout of insanity, I decided to apply to FERRANDI l’École Française de Gastronomie for their Intensive Professional Program in French Pastry. FERRANDI is one of the leading pâtisserie schools in France with a reputation that makes it more than a little intimidating. Also, did I mention it is situated right in the middle of Paris? The professional French pastry program involves pastry schooling for 5 months, followed by a 3-6 month internship in Paris. I applied not knowing whether or not I would get in, nor knowing if I was brave enough to actually go if I was in fact accepted.

A few months after applying, I received confirmation of my enrolment. After talking it over with those closest to me, I decided to take the plunge. Sean was able to join me for my year in Paris, working in a field where working remotely is often possible. Slowly we started checking off to do’s: applying for visas, booking our apartment and buying our flights. By Christmas I had left my job and by the end of January we were officially living in Paris. The craziness of relocating halfway across the world left me too busy to post, but I am hoping to have more regular blog posts from here on out (including more updates on the challenges of moving and how our first weeks in Paris have been.)

Before I get into talking about my first few magical weeks at FERRANDI, I just wanted to quickly recap some projects from my last few months in Canada. The annual cookie baking tradition with my bestie went off without a hitch once again. Here are some of the cookies our week-long baking spree yielded:

Also, for Christmas my nephew asked for a lollipop. Refusing to purchase some store-bought, preservative-filled candy, I decided to make my own. We’re all pretty focused on natural foods in my household, so I wanted to make my lollipops as natural as possible. I knew that this could be a challenge. I didn’t want to use corn syrup and I wanted natural flavouring. I used agave syrup and raw cane sugar as sweeteners and organic grape juice for flavouring. Sadly, my first shot didn’t go so well. While the lollipops looked and tasted great once they were removed from the moulds, overnight they became gummy and this is what happened:

I quickly learned that agave is mostly fructose, which absorbs moisture quickly (hygroscopic). This makes your lollipops gummy and saggy as opposed to hard and shiny. To achieve the perfect lollipops, a mixture of fructose and glucose should be used. For my second attempt, I scrapped the agave and cane sugar, and instead used a mixture of granulated sugar and glucose purchased from a local specialty baking supply shop. These lollipops turned out perfect and were a hit with the kids.

Having finally figured out the right sugars to use, I decided to play around with a few “adult” flavours. Inspired by Sprinkle Bakes, I made red wine lollipops and sriracha lollipops. I substituted the glucose I already on hand for the corn syrup. I thought both flavours were fantastic, but, be warned, the sriracha candy is definitely something you either love or hate ;)

Have a good week, guys! And stay tuned for a post on my first weeks at FERRANDI.

Sour Cherry Pie and a Canadian Recipe

Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a cherry craze.

I’ve been buying cherries (along with almost every other kind of fruit available) at our local farmers’ market to fully take advantage of the last few, dwindling weeks of summer produce.

I have helped my parents pick their overflowing Evans cherry tree, essentially stuffing my freezer full of cherries afterwards. I may have even announced afterwards that we need to buy another freezer (don’t worry – Sean stopped me from making that impulse buy).

And, I’m currently drinking a chocolate cherry latte courtesy of Roast… mmmm.

So overall – cherry overload.

Also, since today is the 7th, it is once again time for my monthly post as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project. For those of you who are new to the Canadian Food Experience Project, the series began on June 7, 2013 and involves a collection of monthly articles written by food bloggers, writers and enthusiasts on pre-determined Canadian food topics. The project aims to help us explore and share our Canadian food identity.

As today’s challenge was to share a cherished Canadian recipe, I thought it would be a perfect time to share what I did with all my Evans cherries. As some of you will know, the Evans cherry is a sour cherry variety which grows on a hardy tree, perfect for withstanding our harsh Alberta climate, making it a very popular regional fruit. It might not have the same look or flavour as the better known Bing cherry, but it is still delicious, tart and perfect for desserts – especially pie.

This pie was great – I’ve been having a slice with my lunch everyday since I made it and it never fails to hit the spot. The tart filling goes well with the buttery crust and it would be fantastic with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Now I need to admit that I am very picky about pie crusts – full disclosure! I need the crust to be flaky and sprinkled with sugar. But I refuse to use shortening in my crust to get the flaky effect. First of all, the extreme white colour of shortening creeps me out a little. Second, hydrogenated oils and trans fats are yukky – I want to feel good about what I’m putting in my body regardless of if its a quinoa salad or a slice of pie. And third, nothing beats butter, in my opinion :) Needless to say, I am a butter purist when it comes to baking. So… I use this wonderful recipe from Smitten Kitchen for pie crusts. Deb also provides some great tips on making pie dough for those who may be attempting their first pie here and here.

For the filling, I used the recipe below. It is really easy to throw together and has few ingredients since the cherry flavour stands out well all on its own.

So, if you have a cherry surplus in your freezer too, make a pie. You won’t be disappointed.

Enjoy.

Sour Cherry Pie Filling

By Genia Rodnyansky Published: September 7, 2013

  • Yield: enough for one 9

Recently, I've been on a bit of a cherry craze. I've been buying cherries (along with almost every other kind of fruit available) …

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 lb sour cherries such as Evans, pitted
  • 1 tsp lemon juice freshly squeeze
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Mix in cherries, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir carefully until evenly mixed.
  3. Use mixture to fill prepared pie crust.

    Canadian Food Heroes

    Happy Wednesday, friends!

    Sorry for the long absence, guys. Life got busy and my blog posts became less frequent. However, since today is the 7th, it is once again time for my monthly post as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project. For those of you who are new to the Canadian Food Experience Project, the series began on June 7, 2013 and involves a collection of monthly articles written by food bloggers, writers and enthusiasts on pre-determined Canadian food topics. The project aims to help us explore and share our Canadian food identity.

    The challenge for August is to write about our local Canadian food hero. As I started to think about this topic, I found myself in a bit of a panic. I am not closely acquainted with any local farmers, producers, chefs or bakers – what would I write about? In fact, I am a chartered accountant who spends Monday through Friday working in a tall downtown office tower, as far away from anyone involved in the production of local food as possible. However, this somehow doesn’t stop me from being hugely passionate about eating healthy, local foods. In fact, I’ve always had a weird fascination with anything rural (when I was young, while other girls dreamed of marrying movie stars, I dreamed of marrying a farmer ;) ). And now, as an adult, I find it extremely important to cook meals from scratch, know exactly what I am eating and where the ingredients came from. So while I can’t say I am closely  acquainted with any local farmer/producer/chef/baker, I can safely say that I am truly grateful for all the talented individuals in the Edmonton area who help us city dwellers develop a deeper understanding of where our food comes from. These are the my “food heroes.”

    There are local farmers and gardeners like those at Happy Acres U-Pick and Billyco Junction. They value chemical-free growing and welcome anyone to stop by for an afternoon of picking strawberries, saskatoons and honeyberries. This not only allows people like me to fill their pails (and freezers) with berries that are bursting in flavour and nutrients, but allows families to bring their children along to learn about local agriculture.

    There are producers which reliably bring their produce to local farmer’s markets so us city dwellers, who often have little opportunity to plant and harvest our own gardens, can take advantage of the season’s bounty. Their market stands become a regular stop for many. I can personally attest that we’ve been getting our weekly haul of fruits and vegetables from producers like Steve and Dan’s and Gull Valley Greenhouses all summer, using their produce in everything from weekday lunches to dessert creations.

    There are also organizations like Taste Alberta that put on wonderful events like Farm to Fork. The event, held this July, allowed regular city folks like us to meet regional producers like Patrick and Cherylynn Bos of Rock Ridge organic dairy. We toured their farm and learned about the processing of goat and cow milk and cheese. We were able to put a face behind the milk carton we may have already been buying at Blush Lane. Plus we got to pet the cute goats!

    While on the Farm to Fork tour, we also had a chance to stop at Brown Eggs and Lamb, a local farm near Lacombe. Cal and Laura welcomed us into their farm even though we arrived after official tour hours. They treated us to some homemade saskatoon tarts and openly told us all about their experience with hens and sheep – they even let us hold their chickens. Brown Eggs and Lamb also has a small shop on site where anyone can purchase their eggs and lamb. They also carry ground flours, local dairy and pasture-fed meats from other nearby producers.

    These experiences are so valuable. Being able to visit the farm where you obtain your food from allows you to build a relationship with the producer, feel confident in the quality of food you are purchasing and solidify a clear connection between farm and food. Thank you to everyone who let us into their farms that day!

    Lastly, there are our friends and family, who support us in our pursuits of healthy, local food. Friends who are willing to share their knowledge on where to find wild blueberries or how to identify edible mushrooms.

    Family members like my mom, who has the biggest green thumb and so much generosity that she won’t let us leave her home without filling our car with her own amazing, local harvest.

    And significant others like my own urban farmer, who puts up with me while I insist on spending countless hours of our preciously limited free time washing, sorting and freezing local summer produce so we can enjoy it when the summer is long gone.

    So thank you to all of my local food heroes – my pursuits at eating healthy and local would definitely not be the same without people like you!

    A Regional Canadian Food: Saskatoon Berry Ice Cream

    Happy Sunday, friends!

    As today is the 7th, its time for my monthly post as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project. For those of you who read last month’s topic… you will recall it was all about the past with recollections of first authentic Canadian food memories. The challenge for July was to explore a regional Canadian food.

    For those of you who are new to the Canadian Food Experience Project, the project began on June 7, 2013 and involves a collection of monthly articles written by food bloggers, writers and enthusiasts on pre-determined Canadian food topics. The project aims to help us explore and share our Canadian food identity.

    When I was thinking about what regional foods or ingredients I would work with for the challenge, the Saskatoon berry just seemed like an obvious choice. These sweet berries are native to the prairies (along with British Columbia and some of the Northern United States), having been used by Native Americans for food and medicinal purposes centuries ago. While they can be easily mistaken for blueberries in appearance, Saskatoon berries have a fairly different flavour – still sweet like the blueberry, they also have a bit of tartness and a drier, less juicy feel. We can’t generally buy these berries at nearby grocery stores, but they are locally available in the wild or can be harvested at local U-Picks. It is definitely not uncommon to see Saskatoon berries used in pies or tarts in Alberta and, to me, they are a perfect representation of regional cuisine.

    While Saskatoon pie is delicious, and I would never turn down a slice, I wanted to make something a bit different to showcase the flavour of this regional berry. I pulled out the ice cream machine and a few hours later we had Saskatoon berry ice cream!

    The ice cream recipe was inspired by a few of the recipes in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz – this man in amazing and I love to live vicariously through his food adventures.

    Also, I know that not everyone has an ice cream maker just sitting around at home, but to be honest, a simple, quality machine can be purchased at a reasonable price and is a great investment if you’re looking to make frozen desserts at home. Ours is by no means fancy, but it does the job, churns the ice cream and yields delicious creamy desserts. (I dream of one day upgrading to a professional machine.) The recipe for the ice cream itself was quite simple. The most frustrating and time consuming part was straining the berry puree through a fine sieve to make sure our ice cream was as smooth as possible. While this is by no means necessary, you won’t regret spending the extra time straining the puree when you’re enjoying flawlessly smooth and creamy scoops of ice cream. In terms of taste, I couldn’t have been happier with this ice cream. The Saskatoon berry flavour came through really well and the bright, natural colour was a plus.

    Some additional tips to keep in mind:

    • If you haven’t made ice cream before, make sure to read through the steps carefully. It may help to have your ice bath ready when you are making the ice cream.
    • Make sure to chill your cream mixture in the refrigerator thoroughly before churning. This will help create the creamy taste we love so much in ice cream.
    • As with most homemade ice creams, this dessert was very rich and you really need only a small scoop or two to be satisfied – so good.
    • The dimensions below will yield more berry puree than you will require for the ice cream. You can use the remaining puree in smoothies or add to pancake batter for a regionally-inspired breakfast. Enjoy!

    Saskatoon Berry Ice Cream

    IMG_2502

    By Genia Rodnyansky Published: July 7, 2013

    • Yield: 1.5 quart

    Happy Sunday, friends! As today is the 7th, its time for my monthly post as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project. For those …

    Ingredients

    • 6 cups Saskatoon berries fresh or frozen
    • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
    • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
    • 1 1/2 cups half and half
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 5 egg yolks large
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed

    Instructions

    1. Combine the Saskatoon berries and 3/4 cups sugar in a large saucepan. Add a splash of water and cook over low-medium heat for about 15 minutes or until berries are breaking up and soft. You can assist the process by stirring with a wooden spoon and breaking up the berries against the side of the saucepan. If the mixture becomes too thick, you can add a bit more water but be careful not to dilute the flavourful puree too much.
    2. Once cooked, transfer the puree to a blender and blend until smooth. Then strain the mixture through a fine, mesh strainer. Reserve 1.5 cups of the strained puree. The rest can be set aside for other uses.
    3. Pour the whipping cream into a large bowl and place a strainer over top. Set aside.
    4. Warm the half and half and the 1/2 cups of sugar in a medium saucepan.
    5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly add the warmed half and half mixture to the egg yolks, adding a little at a time and whisking constantly until fully incorporated. This will allow the eggs to temper and not cook. Return this mixture back to the saucepan.
    6. Cook the mixture over low-medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan as you cook. Cook the mixture until it thickens to a custard consistency and coats the back of your spoon.
    7. Pour the thickened mixture through the sieve, into the prepared whipping cream. Add in the Saskatoon berry puree and the lemon juice. Stir to combine and transfer to an ice bath to chill, stirring occasionally.
    8. Once chilled in the ice bath, refrigerate the mixture for at least 4 hours or overnight before churning in your ice cream machine. Churn the mixture according to your ice cream machine instructions. Enjoy after churning or package for a bit of time in the freezer before enjoying.

      Strawberry Soup with Basil Caviar

      Hi friends!

      I don’t know about you guys but I love making unusual desserts. I’m not saying I have anything against the classics… but sometimes I just get the urge to try something new. Strawberry soup with dessert caviar seemed the like the perfect, unique creation to try out.

      This strawberry soup recipe is from Sprinkle Bakes. Heather’s blog constantly inspires me and I find myself with an ever-growing list of her recipes that I can’t wait to try. They are not only delicious but also artistic and creative. If you love baking with an artistic flare, check out her site.

      Anyways, back to the soup! It’s an excellent dessert for summer when you’re not thrilled at the prospects of spending a day slaving away in an overheated kitchen. The soup is very easy to put together and can be made ahead of time. I used farm-grown strawberries in my soup which were so sweet and flavourful (not like those tasteless grocery store berries we’re used to seeing throughout the winter – bleh!). Since the strawberries were so sweet, I cut the sugar in half which resulted in a more refreshing summer dessert. Feel free to add the full amount of sugar or add sugar to taste.

      Ok so another reason why I was so keen to try this recipe is because of the dessert caviar garnish. I’ve been meaning to play around with dessert caviar for a while now but was a little intimidated by the process. However, my dessert caviar was a total success!

      Dessert caviar is made by first creating a very flavourful liquid, combining it with gelatin and slowly adding drops of this liquid into a very cold volume of chilled oil. As the gelatinous mixture makes contact with the cold oil, it forms perfect spheres. You can find a fantastic step-by-step tutorial on Sprinkle Bakes on how to make dessert caviar. Surprisingly, the process was quite simple.

      I love the idea of using dessert caviar as a garnish since your flavour possibilities are endless. For the strawberry soup, I decided to go with a basil dessert caviar. I picked up some amazing Thai basil from Gull Valley Greenhouses at my local farmer’s market – it made for a very tasty and fresh dessert caviar. To make the liquid for the basil caviar see below.

      Along with the caviar, you can garnish your soup with whipped cream or fresh basil.

      Basil Dessert Caviar

      IMG_2748

      By Genia Rodnyansky Published: June 24, 2013

      • Yield: about 1 cup of liquid

      Hi friends! I don't know about you guys but I love making unusual desserts. I'm not saying I have anything against the classics... …

      Ingredients

      • 1/2 cup filtered water
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves

      Instructions

      1. Bring water and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan, mixing to dissolve sugar.
      2. Remove from heat and add in basil leaves. Mix to combine.
      3. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Use the strained basil syrup and proceed using the Sprinkle Bakes tutorial.

        A Week of Stay-cation (Part 2)

        Happy weekend, friends!

        Since my last post was dedicated to the Canadian Food Experience Project, I still owe you guys the second part of my stay-cation food adventures. Anyone who knows me well, will know that a week of stay-cation could not possibly be complete without some type of baking and sweet treats. So here is what I got up to:

        Grapefruit Ginger Meringue Tarts

        First I decided to experiment with the lemon meringue tarts I had made a few months earlier, tweeking the recipe a bit. I stuck with the amazing pâte sucrée tart crust recipe I used last time (from the Bouchon Bakery book). This tart crust is perfect – crisp, rich and sweet (perfect for pairing with citrus fruits). The dough is made using a “fraisage” technique which essentially involves smearing the dough with the heel of your hand. This yields a dough which is incredibly well mixed and makes the tart less prone to cracking.

        Next, instead of sticking with the traditional lemon meringue tarts, I decided to spice things up and make grapefruit ginger meringue tarts. Grapefruit curd gave the filling a strong tart flavour which paired well with the sweet meringue. I added fresh ginger juice (thank goodness for our juicer which made the job way easier!) to give the curd a bit of a kick. Overall, the tarts were tasty, just as beautiful as last time and a great alternative for when you aren’t in the mood for traditional lemon meringue.

        Baker for a Day (Night)

        Another highlight of my week was getting to spend one day in the life of a professional baker. The owners of a local bakery were gracious enough to invite me to join them on one of their shifts when they found out about my passion for baking! So here are some things I wanted to share about the experience:

        • Baking professionally involves waking up at crazy hours and often working through the night. I arrived from my shift just before 3am and worked until about 9am! This is something we often forget as at home bakers and definitely something we should appreciate when we’re picking up our fresh bread first thing in the morning.
        • Baking is incredibly demanding physically. Bakers often lose a lot of weight when they start working in their trade which is not surprising considering how much physical labour is involved. You are constantly using your body to lift heavy items, work with huge mixers and knead countless loaves of bread.
        • When working at home, you can easily spend hours, sometimes days, creating and perfecting one batch of pastries – not so in a professional kitchen. I was so impressed with how quickly the bakers work to ensure everything goes out in time. I felt like before I even had a chance to learn the shaping technique for a given loaf, it was finished and whisked away to rise. It was truly like an assembly line of dough :)

        Overall, as an avid baker, I loved the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at how the professionals do it. And I got to take away these pretzels that we made that night.

        Date at Duchess

        Lastly, I ended my week off with a date with Sean at Duchess Bake Shop. I know I always gush about how awesome this place is… but its hands down my favourite place to acquire dessert in the city. We’ve seen some new desserts there lately which appear to be summer-inspired like this delicious strawberry mousse we scarfed down. If you haven’t been to Duchess and are in the Edmonton area, definitely make your way over for an unforgettable treat.

        Hope you guys are all inspired to take a stay-cation now.

        As always, thanks for reading!

         

        The Canadian Food Experience Project: My First Authentic Canadian Food Memory

        Happy Friday, everyone!

        Today I wanted to share a new project that I’m participating in. Valerie Lugonja of A Canadian Foodie has put together the Canadian Food Experience Project which begins on June 7, 2013. She’s gathered together a group of Canadian food writers and bloggers who will write monthly articles on pre-determined Canadian food topics. The project will help us explore and share our Canadian food identity which, I know, is sometimes hard to do. Honestly, how many of us have struggled to explain what Canadian cuisine is when we meet travellers from other countries? Maple syrup, poutine, caesars… and my list is basically complete ;)

        I am really excited to join in on the project with so many great writers and Canadian food advocates. I hope you guys enjoy these monthly posts and encourage you to take a look at the articles of other participants.

        My First Authentic Canadian Food Memory

        Since my family immigrated to Canada when I was 6 years old, my first Canadian food experience (authentic or not) took place in 1994. Staying in a hotel our first week in Canada, we discovered both Raisin Bran cereal and peanut butter (in those little single-serving squares) at breakfast. Having just arrived in Canada, both of these foods were entirely foreign to us and I whole-heartedly believed they were authentic Canadian foods. Not to mention, I thought these were the most delicious foods in the world! As a result, I remember eating A LOT of Raisin Bran and peanut butter in our first year in Canada.

        Things have changed slightly now. First off, I can’t stand Raisin Bran anymore. Second, I realized that those typical hotel breakfast foods may not be as authentically Canadian as the 6-year old version of me thought.

        So what was my first authentic Canadian food memory? What is authentically Canadian food? It has to be more than just poutine (although poutine IS delicious).

        For me, Canadian food is food which is influenced by the countless cultures which co-exist and shape our country. It can be the French Canadian cuisine or what’s served at that one Chinese food restaurant which can be found in virtually every small town in Alberta. But also, Canadian cuisine is food which celebrates the produce and livestock that we are proud to have locally: British Columbia salmon or sea buckthorn berries that grow throughout the prairies.

        So while I can’t easily pinpoint my first food memory, there are a few which particularly stand out. First, is having Christmas dinners where the food is clearly from a mix of our traditional and adopted cultures. On our table you will find a stuffed turkey and cranberry sauce, dishes almost unheard of back home, as well as many Ukrainian salads and sides including rye toast and caviar. I also have fond memories of joining my parents in foraging for mushrooms in the forest and picking Saskatoon berries until our baskets and stomachs were full. Finally, I can recall being out with my parents where we fished for trout, later hearing it crackle in tinfoil while it cooked over our campground fire.

        While none of these memories have a poutine in sight, I think they are all authentically Canadian in their own way.


        A Week of Stay-cation (Part 1)

        Hello everyone!

        As I mentioned last time, I just had a wonderful week of vacation from work. It was my first ever “stay-cation” and I loved it! I basically pretended I was a house-wife all week (one can dream right?) ;) . I used the time to catch up on life, make some recipes from my “to try” list and roll out my yoga mat a few extra times. I thought I would share some of the things I got up to during the week:

        Pistachio Falafel from Sprouted Kitchen

        Having lived in Israel for three years while I was growing up, I love love love falafel! Sadly, though, I am often disappointed with the quality of falafel in Edmonton and have yet to find a falafel which I deem worthy (if you guys have a place you love, let me know!). Naturally, when I saw this pistachio falafel recipe posted on Sprouted Kitchen, I was intrigued. It’s been on my “to-try” list ever since and I was happy to have the chance to cross it off recently.

        Like everything on Sprouted Kitchen, the falafel was fresh and healthy. While the ingredient list is a bit longer, most of the items you likely already have at home. Plus, the falafel is so easy to put together since the food processor does most of the work for you. I loved all the herbs which were used in the recipe (fresh mint and cilantro really made a huge difference) as well as the addition of pistachios to the classic chickpea recipe.

        I made the tomato salsa and tahini sauce that Sara recommended and I totally loved the falafel (as did Sean). It was definitely better than any falalfel I have tried in Edmonton and next time I will double the recipe and freeze the leftovers. So good!

        Apple Kale Salad from Seven Spoons

        First of all, let me just say that I am awful at estimating how much kale there is in one bunch at the store. I definitely purchased way too much and after making this salad twice, the fridge is still packed with kale. I will need to make kale chips soon to use up the rest….

        That being said, this salad is great! I made it with three different types of kale (lacinato, redbor kale and curly kale), crisp apples from the farmer’s market, assorted sprouts and nuts (pecans, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds). The dressing is made with tahini, miso (not the actual miso paste but the broth made from it – you can find it at Asian supermarkets) and orange juice (I substituted grapefruit which worked great). The salad dressing instructions involve adding a lot of ingredients to taste: vinegar, lemon juice and oil. Like Tara said, the dressing should make you want to “smack your lips” so just play with it until the dressing tastes delicious and you want to lick it off the spoon.

        I loved how hearty this salad was – since kale is such a sturdy green, you can easily make it the night before and take it for lunch at work. If you want to make the meal more substantial, you can add grilled chicken or salmon on top.

        Japanese-inspired Vegetable Pancakes from Smitten Kitchen

        I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart (and stomach) for potato pancakes so these veggie pancakes seemed like the next logical step. They are made with cabbage, carrots, kale and green onions. They are easy to make, freeze well and would make a great appetizer or dinner.

        Next time, though, I would use fewer eggs (this may be only because we use farm eggs at my house and they are often much larger than store-bought eggs). Also, instead of serving these with the tangy sauce, I would like to see them paired with a sauce with stronger Asian flavours – ginger, sesame or peanut?

        Planting the Herb Garden

        I took advantage of the good weather during my time off to start our herb garden.

        Most of my seedlings were purchased from local farmer’s markets and greenhouses. I always try to purchase seedlings which haven’t been treated with any artificial fertilizers or pesticides since I will be using the herbs to cook with.

        This year, I planted:

        • basil
        • mint
        • oregano
        • rosemary
        • sage
        • thyme

        Along with using them in cooking, I also use fresh herbs to make flavoured water throughout the summer. It’s so easy to make a big pitcher of delicious water (such as blackberry-sage or strawberry-basil) and it really encourages you to stay well-hydrated.

        Alright guys, since this post is getting a little lengthly, I’m going to cut it off here and I’ll resume next time with some of the sweet things I enjoyed on my week off.

        Thanks for reading!