Monday, January 31, 2011

The easiest almond cake you’ll ever bake

I’m sick with a cold these days. Probably like most people who go through a roughly cold winter. And a cold slows me down, even in the kitchen. I don’t have as many ideas and I certainly don’t have the energy to spend hours cooking. But I still have to eat… and most of the time, feed others. So easy, quick recipes are always a plus in hard times.

As easy as this cake is to make, I have to admit, if you’re out sick with fever and bed rest, you should wait a few days to bake a cake. Order out… eat soup… forget the cooking! But if you’re up for it and have got the least bit of energy, you can pull this one off with your eyes closed. It’s one of my mom’s famous recipes. We’ve been eating it in our family for as long as I can remember. And whenever I have new guests over, I love to bake this cake, as it never fails to please.

Makes 8 servings

4 Eggs
¾ cup Sugar
2 tbsp Flour
2 ½ tsp Baking powder
1 cup Whole almonds

2 tbsp Butter, softened
1 cup Icing sugar
2 tbsp Strong Coffee, Hot
1 tsp Cocoa powder
½ tsp Vanilla
1 cup 35% cream

Preheat your oven at 350˚F. Butter two 8-inch springform pans

In a blender, liquefy the eggs and sugar. Add the flour, baking powder and almonds. Blend well. Separate the mixture between the two pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely.

In a large bowl, whip the butter with the icing sugar. Add the coffee, cocoa powder and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream. Add the whipped cream to the moka mix.

Ice the top of both cakes. Set 1 cake on top of the other. Garnish the cake with chocolate pieces and almonds.

Note: You can bake the cake 1 day ahead and add the icing up to four hours before serving.

For the icing, I usually use instant coffee. It works wonders for the taste! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Get your source of Omega 3 with Black Cod

One of my favourite fish is Black Cod. Now I know what you're thinking: 'Cod?'. Don't be fooled. You can’t compare Black Cod to Cod. It partly has the same name but it’s not the same fish! Black Cod, as opposed to Cod, comes from the sub-Antarctic seas. It lives in cold water and, in order to survive, has adipose tissues which gives it’s flesh a melt in your mouth effect. It’s a pricey fish but for a special occasion it’s tasty, different and definitely exceptional. It’s also one of the richest fish in Omega-3 fatty acids, for those who are into the nutritional value of food. Since it’s winter and because I needed an extra boost of vitamins (yes, I think I might be getting a cold), I jumped on the Black Cod when I saw it at my local fish market.

If I may also add, this recipe looks absolutely high class yet is really easy to prepare. It takes about 30 minutes to make and almost all the magic happens in the oven. If you have special guests over, or simply want to treat yourself to something different, this recipe should make you feel like a pro Chef and is a sure bet yo get you praises from your guests!

Makes 2 portions

400 to 500 g Fresh Black Cod
Sea salt & black pepper            
6 tbsp Porcini powder
2 tbsp Olive oil

5 tbsp Butter
About 100 g Fresh wild mushrooms
100 ml Porto
1 Shallot, minced
Sea salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp Corn starch
3 tbsp Cold water
100 ml Veal stock

Preheat your oven at 400˚F (200˚C).

Season your Cod with salt & pepper. Cover 1 side with the porcini powder.

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the Cod for about 3 minutes (or until slightly golden) only on the side covered with the porcini powder. Transfer to an oven proof pan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your paves.

In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Add the Porto and the shallot. Slightly reduce for a few minutes. Season with salt & pepper.

Strain your sauce in a Chinois and keep the mushrooms on the side. Add the Veal stock.

In a small bowl, mix the Corn starch with the cold water. Add about 2 tbsp to your Porto and Veal stock reduction, or until your reduction is thick enough for your taste.
In a plate, serve the mushrooms over mashed potatoes or quinoa (see notes). Lay the pave on top and

Notes: For the French speaking, a few terms might be tricky so here’s the translation to the ones that seem most problematic :
Black Cod : Morue Charbonnière
Porcini Powder : Poudre de cèpes

For those unfamiliar with the term Chinois, it’s a kitchen utensil, similar to a sieve, which is used to filter ingredients and separate undesired items such as seeds, skins, or lumpy particles in order to create a very clear liquid.

For my recipe, I used Chanterelle and Oyster mushrooms.

You can serve your pave with mashed potatoes or, for a healthy alternative, Quinoa. For this recipe, I used quinoa and cooked it in mushroom stock

Friday, January 21, 2011

Special treat: Balsamic Vinegar

I love salad, especially for its crunchiness. There’s something about lettuce that makes me (and my taste buds) feel fresh! But what I like the most about a good salad is the dressing. You could give me a bowl of plain lettuce with amazing vinaigrette and I’d think it’s the greatest thing in the world; I never really need the extra toppings. Those are just secondary pleasure to my taste buds! Still, really good vinaigrette, in my opinion, is all about the vinegar. If you’ve got the tanginess of great vinegar, you’re most likely to be in for great salad dressing.

The other day I felt like a little special treat. I was tired of the vinegars in my cupboard so I headed to the market, went to my favorite specialty store and said: ‘I’m ready to spend (although not too much!) for great vinegar, something special and different. What do you recommend?’ Obviously, I wasn’t ready to spend 75$ for an aged vinegar… that’s just a little too much for my wallet these days. So the owner of the store, without a split second of hesitation, pointed me to the Gocce di Reggio balsamic vinegar, sold for 29.99$.
This vinegar is absolute pleasure! It’s thick and sugary, like expensive old aged balsamic vinegar. Aged for a really long time (!) in wooden barrels, it’s got just enough kick, enough sweetness and not too much acidity, to give your lettuce the great help it so desperately needs. This vinegar is so good you could lick it from your plate or eat it right from the spoon. Oh yeah! And this vinegar doesn’t need the help of its good friend Mrs. Olive Oil! Simply sprinkle it over any vegetable (or fruit) and the job is done. I highly recommend the splurge. The 30 bucks spent are well worth it!

I found my Gocce di Reggio at the Douceurs du marché, at Atwater Market, for 29.99$. If you find it somewhere else, please share the info with us! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heart-Warming Indian Cauliflower Soup

It’s winter here in Montreal and the cold has settled in. Winter is a strange phenomenon. We just never seem to get used to it. Every year the same story repeats itself and yet, we’re always taken aback when the first real cold day comes around. And yesterday was no exception with minus 20˚C, and a felt temperature of much colder. That’s when we decide to take out our recipe books and start making some heart-warming food.

Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable. Although it’s not great tasting (and doesn’t smell good!) when it’s simply boiled, it can be so great when it’s well prepared and seasoned. Because it was so cold outside yesterday, I decided to warm my kitchen up. I cranked up some reggae music (try listening to an album called Universal Message with mixed artists, it’s just great!), took out my exotic stash of spices along with the big cauliflower I had in the fridge (it lay there as I didn’t know what to do with it). With some good ingredients on hand, I decided to make a nice tasty, healthy soup.

Makes 8 portions

1 tbsp Ghee
1 Cauliflower cut in rough pieces
2 Small potatoes, diced
3 tbsp Water
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Black mustard seeds
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tbsp Coriander seeds, slightly crushed
1 liter Vegetable broth
Salt & pepper
1/3 cup Plain yogurt

In a large pan, over medium heat, melt the ghee. Add the cauliflower pieces, the potatoes and the water. Bring to a boil. With the cover on, lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and the ginger, Turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin and coriander. Cook for 3 minutes while mixing. Incorporate the vegetable broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for another 20 minutes.
Take off the heat and let cool. Transfer to a blender and mix until you get a smooth purée. Put back in the pan and add the yogurt. Reheat over low heat if necessary and serve immediately.

Note: Ghee is clarified butter. Unless you want to prepare it yourself, you can buy it in specialized stores already prepared and it can be kept in the fridge for quite a long time for further use.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Easy, tasty, wannabe Cajun dinner

I love to cook but I usually don’t like to spend too much time in front of my stove, especially on weeknights. I can say that my dinners are usually tasty and never ordinary (at leas I try to stay out of the ordinary), but I rarely spend more than 30 to 60 minutes preparing them. Who has all day to prepare dinner nowadays? I most certainly don’t!! And I’m sure you don’t either!

Another thing I love to do is challenge myself to an ‘empty my fridge cookout’. It’s simple. I open my fridge, look at what I have on hand and try to make something creative and special out of it. My personal secret to this is to always have the basic ingredients on hand: spices, sauces, herbs, oils and vinegars, etc., that way I can go in either direction I feel like going.

This week, I made an amazing somewhat Cajun dinner out of chicken and red and yellow peppers. If you’re game, you should try this one. It’s really really easy and soooooo tasty… just make sure to think of this recipe 1 day ahead!!

Makes 4 servings

4 Chicken legs (without skin)
½ cup Ketchup
½ cup Yellow mustard
¼ cup Heinz 57 Sauce
¼ cup Jerk Sauce (if you don’t have this, substitute with Jerk seasoning)
2-3 tbsp Hot Calypso sauce (made with pickled Scotch bonnet peppers)
1 tbsp Liquid smoke
1 tbsp Smoked paprika
1 tbsp Dehydrated garlic 
Kosher Salt
Black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl or a large freezer Ziploc bag. Add the chicken and make sure the marinade is all over it. Let marinate in the fridge overnight.

Heat your oven at 350˚F.

Place your chicken on a baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven. Cook for 50-60 minutes.

Note: If you prefer white meat, you can substitute the chicken legs for breasts. Cooking time should be around 20 minutes.

Smoke paprika and liquid smoke are great to have on hand. You can buy them in specialized stores like Les douceurs du marché at Atwater Market. You can keep them for a long time in the fridge and can always add them to your BBQ marinades.

Makes 4 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 Red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 Bell peppers (red, yellow, orange… but avoid the green), sliced
5 Garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp Raspberry vinegar
Salt & Pepper
½ cup Fresh coriander, chopped

In a wok or a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and softened for 2-3 minutes. Add the bell peppers and the garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the raspberry vinegar, salt & pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Just before serving, add the coriander.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Alexis le gourmand

Because this is a local subject matter, I’ll switch and write in French!

Pendant les vacances de noël, je suis allée visiter une toute nouvelle épicerie fine, Alexis le gourmand. Le superbe local anciennement habité par un garage, qui confère aujourd’hui certains airs de Dean & Deluca à New York, a été réfléchi et rénové durant la dernière année par un de mes amis d’enfance, Alexis Véronneau.

Grand épicurien et amateur du beau et du bon, Alexis n’a pas lésiné sur les détails et nous offre dans sa boutique un éventail de produits fins dont les délicieux produits de Les jardins de la colline concoctés dans les Cantons de l’est. De plus, l’attirant comptoir du boucher (le cousin d’Alexis!) inspire avec ses poulets de grain et ses viandes vieillies sur place. Vous trouverez en comptoir des produits cuisinés maison, toujours utiles pour les gens pressés, en plus de fruits et de légumes, de pains de la boulangerie Arhoma et de crème glacée du Bilboquet. Bien sûr, une panoplie de produits fins est aussi disponible sur place.

Lors de ma visite, la boutique venait à peine d’ouvrir ses portes. Je n’ai pu m’empêcher de trouver les airs de grandeur du local un peu intimidants considérant qu’en début d’après-midi, les clients se faisaient plutôt rare et que l’absence de musique de fond mettait en évidence le bourdonnement des multiples réfrigérateurs. Mais il ne devrait suffire que de peu de temps et de l’arrivée des enceintes de musique avant que l’ambiance s’installe et que la clientèle se mette à affluer à toute heure de la journée. Enfin, je dois mentionner que mon œil curieux n’a pas manqué les quelques pièces d’antiquités conservées dans la boutique. Absolument magnifiques, ces pièces de collection confèrent à la boutique un cachet d’authenticité au sein de la modernité.

Pour les gens qui habitent le Centre-Ville de Montréal et le Centre Sud, vous êtes choyés! Alexis le gourmand a pignon sur rue au 1405 rue St-Jacques, à quelques minutes en voiture du Marché Atwater. Allez faire votre tour et dites-moi ce que vous en pensez!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Decadent Banana Cake – Getting ready for the weekend

For the past 5 days my Internet has been down. I’m sitting in a Starbucks so I can have access to free wireless Internet. How has it become that we’re such addicts to our connection? Without Internet, I’ve been stuck, not able to post any new recipe on my blog. Trust me, it’s been tough… But it doesn’t mean I’ve been doing nothing at home. Cooking never stops. With 3 meals a day to prepare, it’s hard to forget the importance of food.

So a couple of days ago, to finish off the Holidays with a bang, we had a couple of friends over for dinner… mostly guys with BIG appetites. I believe I fed them well, catering to their need of stuffing themselves on heavy food. But once we got to desert, it was like I had fed them nothing but air; their appetites were still enormous and they wanted more. Luckily, I had made some serious desert. An amazing and decadent Banana Cake, layered with nuts and chocolate. Little did they know that I had made this desert because I had to get rid of a few bananas, which were getting old on my counter!

If you’re ever in the same situation and you’ve got some pretty old looking bananas, try this cake. It’s easy and it’s goooooooood!!! And if you’re really feeling decadent (or simply are looking to get a sugar buzz), add some vanilla ice cream to your servings…

Makes 8 servings

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 bananas, sliced
1/3 cup almonds, coarsely chopped (or walnuts)
1/3 cup chocolate chips or disks
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup milk
1 ¼ cups sugar
4 bananas, mashed
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C)

In a large bowl, combine half the butter and the brown sugar. Spread this mixture into an 8-inch Bundt pan* or a deep cake pan. Place the banana slices at the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the almonds. Sprinkle with the chocolate. Set aside.

In a bowl, blend the eggs, vanilla and milk. Set aside.

In another bowl, cream the remaining butter with the sugar. Add the mashed bananas and dry ingredients alternately with the milk mixture.

Pour into the pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool, flip and unmold. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Day party at my grandma's

I’m not going to tell you hold old my grandmother is but I will tell you this, it’s been a while since she’s decided she wasn’t going to cook on Christmas Day or on the 1st of January. The good days are over and someone else has taken over.

Every year the family is invited for an afternoon ‘snack’ at my grandmother’s place. It’s an open invitation where you can show up between 2pm and 5pm. What we do is drink a lot of bubbly and wine and eat quite a bit too. It’s a classic family reunion for us. And the way it’s done is usually pretty fancy. Since my grandmother doesn’t cook anymore, she usually hires a high end caterer and has canapés prepared for us. It’s pretty good but I personally think it’s never as good as something made fresh and prepared with heart. Which is why when my grandmother spoke to me about having her usual party, I didn’t hesitate a second and offered her to help. Basically, I told her I would do the dirty job, for free! The only thing she had to do was to pay for the groceries.

I’m not going to lie… she hesitated at first. But when she saw the Coquille St-Jacques on this blog, she called me back and told me I had the job. That’s when I new what I had gotten into. It wasn’t going to be an easy task… My grandmother is not one who is easily impressed.

So I put up my sleeves and decided on 10 different types of canapés for the event, enough to satisfy all tastes. My barriers were the following: 11 guests (I was notified the day before the event!), my food had to be somewhat classic and I couldn’t have any breakable dishes in my plating. As for me, I wanted to be able to make quick and easy bites that would be tasty and have a visual impact.


1 English cucumber, cut in ¼ cm slices
240 g chunk crabmeat (canned will do just fine)
¼ red pepper, minced
4 branches green shallots, chopped
2 tbsp Madras curry

1 tbsp curcuma
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp lemon juice

In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients. Serve on cucumber slices.


1 pound small cooked shrimps, chopped in pieces 
½ red onion, chopped in tiny pieces
½ jalapeno pepper, chopped in tiny pieces
1 tbsp Jamaican All Spice
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp yogurt
1 lime zest
Salt & pepper

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients. Adjust to taste. Serve in little serving cones.


1 cup dry DuPuy lentils
½ sweet onion, minced
3 carrots, chopped in tiny pieces
4 celery branches, chopped in tiny pieces
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ cup Xeres vinegar
1 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper


Soak and cook the lentils as indicated on original package. Drain and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the onions, carrots and celery with the lentils.

In a bowl, mix the Dijon mustard, Xeres vinegar and olive oil until you get a nice, creamy texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Incorporate to the lentil salad according to taste. Serve in Chinese soup spoons.


500 g chestnut spread
2 cups 35% cream
1 gelatine sheet
1 tbsp cocoa powder
½ cup Crispearls (optional)*

In a medium saucepan over low heat, dissolve the gelatine in the chestnut spread. Set aside and let cool for about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, whip the cream. Add the chestnut mix and blend until you get a homogenous mix. Split between serving plates and cover in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Before serving, you can add a few Crispearls white and some cocoa powder on top.

*Crispearls are cereals coated with chocolate. The ones I buy are made by Callebaut and I buy them at Aubut, whose reference you’ll find in the places where I shop.

The party and the food were a smash hit. My grandmother called this morning and told me everything was fabulous. It was a lot of work for me but so much fun at the same time! I’d do it again anytime.