Cherry Clafoutis

Cherry Clafoutis Mimi Thorisson

Cherry Clafoutis A Kitchen in France

Cherry Clafoutis Frozen Cherries

Cherry clafoutis is such a classic French dessert – and really any clafoutis works well this time of year, since it’s so fast and easy and pairs well with any summer fruit you have on hand. I made this to bring to a friend’s house for lunch and admittedly used some frozen cherries I already had stocked instead of fresh. It turned out well, but the extra moisture from the fruit definitely added more of a Dutch Baby-type of consistency to the cake, which I didn’t really mind.

This recipe is from Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France cookbook (when you want French country, you go right to the source!), and she advises to use the cherries pits-in and all! I love the low key nature of it – but you may want to tailor to whoever your guests are.

Mimi Thorisson’s Cherry Clafoutis
(serves 4-6)

3.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1 lb./450 g cherries, stemmed
scant 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
3/4 cup + 1.5 tablespoons milk
4 eggs
1 tablespoon orange flower water
icing sugar for dusting

Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan. Arrange the cherries in the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla seeds. Whisking gently, add the milk and then the eggs, one by one. Add the orange flower water and melted butter and mix until you get a smooth batter. Pour the batter over the cherries. (You can arrange the cherries evenly throughout the pan afterwards.)

Bake for 15 minutes at 400°F. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake until the clafoutis has puffed up and slightly browned, about an additional 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack and set for at least an hour. Just before serving, dust with icing sugar. Enjoy!

Fennel and Honey Granola

Fennel and Honey Granola

Fennel and Honey Granola with Peanut Butter and Pine NutsFennel and Honey Sugar Free DIY GranolaFennel and Honey Granola with Fresh Berries

There are a couple of store-bought granolas that I hit up on the regular–they’re sugar-free and I usually just mix them up with some chia seeds, hemp  hearts and raw pumpkin seeds for a go-to breakfast or snack. After I saw this recipe in the popular r.s.v.p. section of Bon Appétit (where they track down recipes for readers from their favourite restaurants and hotels), I decided I had to give it a go. Glad I did – it’s definitely worth the minimal effort and the flavour pay off is huge compared to my usual boxes. Plus, there’s very little sugar involved here– just half a cup of honey for the entire batch and a tablespoon of fresh orange juice. 

Picking up ingredients at a bulk supply store is key for this one, so you’re not left with a lot of random leftovers. I also skipped the dry fruit in lieu of fresh berries or peaches since they’re so easy to get a hold of right now. However, the dried stuff will definitely come in handy when you don’t have any fresh fruit on hand, especially in the cooler months.

Fennel and Honey Granola
(12 servings)

1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons smooth, natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Toast pine nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, sesame seeds and fennel seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until lightly golden for about 5-7 minutes at 350°F. Reduce oven temperature to 275°F.
Meanwhile, whisk honey, peanut butter, oil, orange zest and juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Toss nuts and seeds, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Pour honey mixture over and gently mix until oat mixture is completely coated.
Spread out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring halfway through (edges will take colour before centre does), until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let cool; granola will crisp as it cools. Break up into pieces and serve with milk or yoghurt and fruit of your choice. Enjoy!

Petits Fours

Guacamole Molcajete

Making guacamole in my new molcajete: 2 avocados, half a roma tomato, small onion wedge, lime juice, cilantro and garlic salt. If prepping for guests, keep the pit handy to help keep the avocados from browning too quickly.

Birthday Pink Garden Cabbage Roses

Prepping some birthday roses for a friend – these cabbage roses are a favourite!

Toronto Sugar Beach

Hard to resist the sailboats and pink umbrellas at Sugar Beach come summer.

Watermelon Feta Mint Salad

This watermelon feta salad is practically a summer barbecue requirement.

Ultimate Roast Chicken

Ultimate Julia Child Roast Chicken

Of all the recipes I’ve posted here, it blew me away when I realized I had never posted anything in regards to roasting a whole chicken. Maybe because it’s such a standby in my arsenal of favourite recipes, I just never considered it “special” enough to write about. Funnily enough, it was one of the first recipes I ever made when I first got really into cooking about five or six years ago, after my godmother bought me Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child for Christmas. The first time I made her recipe, to the word, was heavenly–the tender dark meat, the gravy, mashed potatoes, roast carrots…to die for.

In the years since, I’ve tinkered with the recipe quite a bit–roast chicken is just one of those things everyone has an opinion on and it’s good to try a little bit of everything. Also, the original recipe was admittedly time-consuming, with instructions, for example, to baste the bird in butter about every ten or fifteen minutes for over an hour (doing this while keeping the oven temperature steady is quite a feat on its own). Now, I often rely on Julia’s more simplified version in her much smaller book Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, as well as some other preferences I’ve learned along the way. The biggest alteration is that I like to keep the oven temperature way up for the whole roasting process, instead of eventually turning it down, for juicier meat and crispier skin.

This particular evening, I had found some treats at the farmer’s market, including celeriac and chive flowers – so I served the chicken with Jamie Oliver’s Celeriac Mash (which I made half and half with cauliflower), and used fresh tarragon and the flowers for garnish.

Ultimate Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken, 3.5 – 4 lbs.
small piece of onion
half a lemon
fresh thyme
butter or coconut oil
kosher salt and pepper
1 cup chicken stock

Wash the chicken thoroughly inside and out with hot water and dry completely with paper towels. Rub the skin generously with coconut oil or butter and kosher salt and stuff the cavity with 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and pepper, half a lemon, a small piece of onion and some fresh thyme.

Place the bird on a roasting rack in a walled pan. (The rack helps to elevate the bird so air can circulate and crisp up the skin all-over. If you don’t have one, you can place directly in the pan.) Roast at 400°F for an hour and fifteen minutes. When finished, the skin will be golden and crispy, and juices from the meat will run clear. Remove the chicken to a carving board for fifteen minutes so juices retract back to the meat.

To make the gravy, use a spoon to remove the fat from the pan and add chicken stock. Place the pan over a burner on medium-high heat. Use a whisk to scrape up meat and browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan and continue to whisk over high heat. Once browned and thickened to your liking, whisk in a teaspoon of butter and remove from the heat. Enjoy!

Adapted from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child.

Poilâne Brioche Pudding with Dates and Earl Grey Tea

Poilane Appollonia Brioche Recipe BookBrioche Pudding with Dates and Earl Grey TeaPoilane Brioche Recipe Book ParisPoilane Brioche Pudding

When I was in Paris earlier this year, I stopped into Poilâne, one of my favourite bakeries, and found that among my favourite shortbread cookies, they were also selling too-cute-to-be-true original edition recipe booklets written by Apollonia Poilâne (who took over her family’s business at 18 when her parents died in a helicopter accident). Complete with flax yarn schoolbook binding (that still needs to be sliced open with a paper cutter), the booklets were available in a few different themes, one of which was Brioche: Ten Ways to Prepare It.

It’s a charming little book to say the least, and it starts with a brioche-themed quote that Apollonia explains in her foreward was mistakenly attributed to Marie Antoinette:

“Finally I recalled at the last moment, a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who replied: let them eat cake.” -Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions

I’ve always had a soft spot for bread pudding, so this version with dates and Earl Grey tea was first on my list to try from the book. It’s lovely in that it is not too sweet but has a lot of depth of flavour thanks to the smoked tea, so it can easily be served for breakfast or dessert. If it’s the latter, I highly suggest a little crème fraîche on the side and/or a drizzle of honey. Obviously, the quality of both the brioche and the tea will make a huge difference here, so try to source the best you can find!

Brioche Pudding with Dates and Earl Grey Tea
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

1 large brioche (you can freeze whatever is leftover)
12 pitted dates, cut into large pieces
250 ml whipping cream
1 teabag + 1 tablespoon of Earl Grey tea
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
2 eggs

Bring the cream with the tea bag to a boil in a saucepan. Let steep, covered, for ten minutes.
Toast the loose tablespoon of Earl Grey tea in a pan for a few minutes and grind it into powder.
Cut the brioche into about one-inch pieces and place them in a baking dish. Sprinkle with dates and the toasted Earl Grey powder.
In a bowl, combine the cream, sugar and eggs until well blended. Spread the mixture over the brioche. Bake for 25 minutes at 350°F . Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

Petits Fours

Granola with Strawberries and Bee PollenExperimenting with adding bee pollen to my granola–it tastes similar to honey with a slight floral flavour and is said to be very high in protein and one of the best natural sources of vitamins and amino acids. A teaspoon a day!

Inniskillin Winery Niagara on the Lake

Admiring the beautiful Wisteria growing at Inniskillin while on a wine tour last week. Some of my other favourite spots in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area are here.

Balcony Garden Tomatos and Herbs

First little haul from the balcony garden– comes in handy for daily omelettes…

Best Pasta Carbonara

…and my favourite Pasta Carbonara. Added some of the mini heirloom tomatoes to this recipe.

David Lebovitz’s Paris-Paris (or Paris-Brest or…Éclairs)

David Lebovitz Eclairs

David Lebovitz Eclair Choux Pastry

Piping Eclair Pastry

Hazelnut Chestnut Chocolate Eclairs

Éclairs are definitely having a moment in Paris right now, and while I await these heavenly pastries to become the next big thing here at home, I decided to give them a whirl myself. As with most French desserts, I turned to David Lebovitz‘s recipe–Paris-Paris inside his latest book My Paris Kitchen–for guidance.

As you may be, I was confused at first as to why the name for the recipe was listed as “Paris-Paris” and not simply “Éclairs”, which seems like a French enough name already, non? Turns out, the original éclair-like pastry is actually in the shape of a wheel, instead of a slender finger, and named Paris-Brest, to commemorate the bicycle race between the two French cities, which started in 1891. Lebovitz tells a charming story in My Paris Kitchen about one of the most elusive chocolate and pastry-makers in Paris, Jacques Genin (his self-proclaimed frenemy), whose Paris-Brest, he says, is his favourite dessert in Paris. An impressive recommendation, indeed. To honor this glowing endorsement, Lebovitz named his own recipe Paris-Paris, after the trip he makes from his apartment to Genin’s shop in the Marais to delight in his favourite treat.

Yes, these require at least a donation of an afternoon to make, but I don’t think I have to further highlight that they are definitely something special. Since I was running low on hazelnuts, I substituted in pre-roasted and peeled chestnuts, which was just as delicious (if not more so?) It changed the texture of the praline just so, as the chestnuts are obviously much softer, but the cream turned out just as well. A treat to end all treats – enjoy!

David Lebovitz’s Paris-Paris, from My Paris Kitchen
Makes 10-12 éclairs

Hazelnut (or Chestnut!) Praline
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped, untoasted hazelnuts (or chestnuts)
Large pinch of salt

Pastry Cream
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Éclair Pastry
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, room temperature

Chocolate Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons hot water

Prep a baking sheet by lightly greasing it or lining with a silicone baking mat. To make the hazelnut praline, spread the sugar in an even layer in a skillet. Heat over medium heat until the edges begin to melt and it eventually turns a light, amber colour. Use a spatula to drag the melting sugar towards the centre and add the nuts and pinch of salt. Stir the nuts into the caramelized sugar, until the mixture just begins to smoke. Immediately scrape onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading as evenly as possible, and let cool completely. (Once cool, the mixture can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.)

To make the pastry cream, warm the milk in a small saucepan and set aside (you can pour into another small vessel first to re-use the pot.) In the same cleaned pot, whisk the cornstarch and egg yolks until smooth, then whisk in the sugar. Dribble in a little of the hot milk, whisking constantly, then add in the rest, still whisking. NB: Full disclosure – I completed the above process three times before getting it right. Every time I tried to complete the roux-like mix with the cornstarch/yolks/sugar it became far too thick and curdled like very fine scrambled eggs before I could add in the milk, which was never able to save it. I was attempting to make the custard over VERY low heat, since the recipe doesn’t suggest a heat level, however I finally found it was best to take the pot off the burner completely until it’s time to add in the milk. If your mix is lumpy at all before getting to this stage, don’t bother wasting your milk and start again over no heat!

Once the milk has been added, cook the pastry cream at the lowest possible boil for 1.5 minutes, whisking vigorously and making sure to reach the perimeter of the pan, until it is very thick like mayonnaise. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter a few cubes at a time, and vanilla, until smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover, and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to use (can be kept for up to three days).

Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. To make the éclairs, heat the water, sugar, salt and butter in a saucepan, stirring just until the butter melts. Add the flour and stir for a few minutes over low heat until the mixture forms a smooth ball that pulls away from the sides of the pot. Remove from the heat and let cool for three minutes, stirring occasionally to help cool it slightly. Add the eggs one by one, stirring briskly after each until the dough is smooth. (You can also use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.) Transfer the warm dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip and pipe out ten to twelve five-inch lines of dough evenly spaced on the baking sheet. (You can also use a freezer bag with the corner snipped off.) With a damp finger, smooth out any spiky points on the pastry lines from lifting the piping bag.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking, until the shells are a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and poke a small paring knife into the side of each pastry, twisting as you poke, to help the steam escape and keep the dough crisp. Let cool completely.

Finish the filling by breaking up the caramelized nuts and pulsing them in a food processor until very finely ground. Add one third of the cooled pastry cream and pulse the processor a few times to incorporate it. Using a spatula, mash the nut mixture into the remaining pastry cream, until just incorporated Avoid overzealous mixing, which make the cream too runny.

Slice each éclair open lengthwise with a serrated knife, cutting almost all the way through. Using either another pastry bag with a plain tip, a spoon, or a small plastic bag with a cut-off corner, fill the éclair shells with the praline cream.

To make the glaze, mix the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder in a small bowl and stir in hot water until smooth. The icing should be thick enough to spread but also hold its shape once applied. With a spoon or small spatula, wipe a broad band of glaze over the top of each éclair, scraping off most of the excess. Chill the glazed pastries in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. (Can be kept up to three days.)

Cucumber Salad with Oregano and Feta

Cucumber Salad with Feta and OreganoWhile we’ve just had a “glimpse” at warmer weather these past weeks, it still put me in the mood for some lighter fare that wasn’t composed solely of spinach leaves or romaine. This cucumber salad is quick to go together and has a very balanced flavour (not too creamy, nor too tangy), and pairs perfectly with grilled meats come barbecue season (any day now).

Cucumber Salad with Feta and Oregano
(serves 4)

1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 shallot, minced
juice and zest from half an organic lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt

Place cucumbers in a colander and sprinkle with salt. In a bowl, combine the feta, oregano, garlic, shallots, lemon juice, zest and olive oil.

Gently press the cucumbers to drain off any liquid that has accumulated. Toss the cucumber slices with the dressing and serve at room temperature. Enjoy!

Adapted from Michael Symon.

Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta…That’s Vegan (Shhh!)

Creamy Vegan Tomato Basil Pasta

Okay–so I am clearly not opposed to dairy products, but I do use almond milk for most “milk” purposes, save for in my lattes. (Have you ever tried to steam almond milk? It’s pretty disgusting and comes out like a weird dairy-like sponge…) Anyway, I received the Oh She Glows cookbook a couple of months back as a gift and was intrigued by a few of the recipes, which offered up some interesting, healthier alternatives for meals that didn’t seem too offensive.

Since I pretty much cut out pasta from my regular diet over the last year (I’ll still eat it on a night out, or make it at home maybe once a month), I was curious to try this recipe first to see how it would measure up as a guilt-free option. The main substitute is using blended cashews in place of cream or butter to get a really satisfying, creamy finish that’s similar to a “rose” sauce. Don’t get me wrong – this won’t blow you away à la a Batali or Jamie Oliver pasta dish, but it is very tasty and is a great sub if you’re in the mood for pasta (with leftovers!) and want to avoid using cups full of butter, oil and cream. Plus, I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it to guests for a casual lunch or dinner.

Oh She Glows Tomato Basil Pasta
(serves 3-4)

1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetened, unflavoured almond milk
255g uncooked pasta (I used gluten-free brown rice fusilli)
1 teaspoon olive oil (or coconut oil)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes (I used whole, canned plum tomatoes, just “squished” into the pan)
3 handfuls spinach
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt + pepper

Place the cashews in a small jar or bowl, cover with water and let sit for at least two hours or overnight. Drain, rinse, and combine with almond milk. Blend until smooth and thick. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cool pasta al dente, according to package instructions.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for five to ten minutes until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes (do not use the liquid if using canned) and spinach and cook for ten more minutes over medium-high heat, until spinach has wilted. Stir in cashew cream, basil, tomato paste, oregano and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for five to ten more minutes until heated through.

Add cooked pasta to the pan and stir until well combined with sauce. Serve with fresh basil (and shredded parm if you’re not vegan…!) Enjoy!

Chocolate Breakfast Oats

Healthy Chocolate Breakfast Oats Pudding

We all know that breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day, but it can be increasingly difficult to set yourself up with healthy options when you’re most often eating at the office (or on the way), feeling sleepy/lazy and just in the need of a boost… often in the form of coffee and some kind of sweet and carby bite. Even though I don’t commute, I still find myself tempted to reach for something easy and pseudo-satisfying on some mornings, rather than whip up something that I know will keep me fuller for longer and with far more energy.

Hence, the importance of make-ahead breakfasts. Fast, simple, and with the ability to last for the better part of a week (see more here and here), ready-made morning meals are key when you’re rolling into the kitchen or out the door, and can just grab something without a second thought, and still feel good about what you’re eating. This is one of my new favourites, since it still satisfies my sneaky sweet tooth:

Chocolate Breakfast Oats

1 cup of rolled oats (use gluten-free oats, if you’d like)
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup raw organic cocoa nibs
1 teaspoon Sucanat (unrefined cane sugar – but you can also use maple syrup or honey)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
2 cups unsweetened chocolate almond milk
To garnish: Banana slices, berries, pepitas and hemp hearts

Add all of the solid ingredients together in a large jar and cover with almond milk. Shake well, making sure that the chia seeds have been well mixed in (give everything a stir, if need be). Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, serve a few large spoonfuls and top with garnishes of your choice, including berries, sliced banana (or other fruit), pepitas and hemp hearts. Enjoy!