Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another reason to live in NDG

Large grocery store chains often tempt me with the convenience they offer: the possibility of finding everything from veggies to cheese to beer, all in one place, at any hour of the night. Also, unlike most farmer's markets, they take credit. However these little conveniences don't come for free. There's always a trade off. Always. And in this case of course, it's the quality and variety of produce and goods you get. However if there's one supermarket that surprises, it's definitely Akhavan on Sherbrooke in NDG.

Kristina and I often obsess over the wonderful treats this grocery store has to offer. From the thick delicious firm yogourt that is the closest thing to the one I tasted in Greece this summer to the quite large selection of olives. Kristina's favorite are the green olives with garlic and sesame seeds. I'm partial to the ones mixed in with sundried tomatoes, they add the perfect amount of sweetness to the whole mix.

This is an Iranien, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean supermarket so they have a lot of hard-to-find cheeses and specialties like their homemade tabouleh, moussaka, aubergine salad, falafels... In terms of feta cheese alone they have about 4 different types like Lebanese, Greek, cows milk, sheep's milk... Another favorite of ours is the Halloumi cheese that is so delicious grilled on the barbecue or fried(recipe coming soon!).

The nut counter is also a huge attraction for us especially since I tend to bake a lot with pistachios which are often impossible to find raw, unsalted and fresh!! Here, they have 2 types, Iranien and Californien for under 20$/kg!!! This is kind of amazing since they usually go for about 30$/kg at least.

Oh and the desserts. They offer an assortment of traditional pastries that are almost as good as what my greek grandmother makes. (Kristina raves about the baklava every time we set foot in here. I enjoy the pistachio mahmoul).

Basically Akhavan is my one and only favorite grocery store and I just thought you should know.

(Ps. i dont even live in NDG, i just spend half my life at Kristina's so I get confused sometimes)


Friday, August 27, 2010

tuna breakfast with luxirare

omg i love this girl

She has the most amazing culinary creations and she didn't even go to chef school.
I think she just may be a really talented New York city rich kid who spends a lot of her time creating both recipes and clothes.
And just the pictures of all the food are mind blowingly gorgeous.
Early bird special is my latest favorite recipe, it incorporates everything i love and its breakfast!!
Cured tuna, avocado, quail eggs, truffles on paperthin slices of potato?!?! genius!
I'm thinking a fancy breakfast for a lazy sunday.
I'll let you know how it goes!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

picnic table pasta dinner.

Last night I hosted an Italian food dinner party. The original inspiration for the get together was a jersey mobster wife dress up party where I would exclusively serve italian american dishes (like baked ziti!), but time constraints forced us to scrap the dress up bit (except sabrina and claire who both get bonus points for coming in costume) and focus on the food. From my experience the best Italian food is always the simple hearty dishes with the freshest ingredients. Dinner time for Italians is never an eat and run kind of affair. In my family, sitting around the table talking and sharing stories long after the plates have been licked clean and no one can breathe is perfectly normal...and that was really my biggest inspiration for the evening. The menu was simple: linguini with homemade tomato sauce, baked tomatoes with parsley, and garlic bread.

I just got a copy of Jamie Oliver's Italy (which I highly recommend!) but the sauce and baked tomatoes are more or less my grandmother's recipes. Unfortunately my grandmother does not measure anything out so sharing this recipe might be a little tricky.

Baked Tomatoes
prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Italian Tomatoes
fresh parsley
fresh basil
garlic cloves
sea salt
olive oil

This is a super easy recipe and a great way to use up garden tomatoes that all seem to turn red at once. I sliced the tomatos in half length wise and placed them on an oiled baking dish. I seasonned with sea salt, ground pepper, garlic, and a ton of fresh parsley and basil on each on.
Preheat the oven at 350 and bake until they start to shrivel up!

Tomato Sauce
cooking time: 4 hours (i had the day off)
2 cans of high quality tomato paste/puree
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 onion
1 celery
1 carrot
a lot of garlic
olive oil
a glass of red wine
Meat for flavor (I used some spare ribs and pieces of veal but really anything goes as long as the cuts are fresh and good quality)
lots of fresh basil and parsley
a pinch of chili flakes
sea salt and ground pepper
Romano cheese rind and grated Romano

Dice up half the onion and garlic and slow fry on low heat in a large sauce pan with olive oil and chili flakes. Toss in the meat and let it brown for 5 minutes. add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes ( you may need to add some extra water if it's looking too thick). Throw in the celery, carrot, and rest of the onion (all whole) and the Romano rind. Season with salt/pepper and fresh herbs and let it slow cook for hours. The flavor of the meat (which is all in the fat) will slowly seep into the sauce and you can keep seasoning to taste (which is what i do since i dont actually have a written recipe to follow).

After a few hours the sauce is ready to serve. The consistency should be quite liquidy so that it coats the pasta completely instead of just sitting on top like the way curry would sit on rice. Make sure to remove all the pieces of meat and whole vegetables before serving!

As for the pasta make sure to read the cooking time on the packaging. Over cooked pasta is awful!
Another trick my grandmother taught me was to coat the noodles with a few table spoons of butter before adding the sauce.
Finally, garninsh with an unhealthy amount of grated Romano cheese and some fresh basil!
I hope this is somewhat clear. Italian cooking is not very precise.

Garlic Butter
Salted butter
Organic minced garlic
Olive oil
dried oregano

Heat up the butter and add the other three ingredients to taste. This takes a whole 5 minutes and it's way better than bought garlic butter!

For dessert I served a simple cheese platter with a generous chunck of an aged Italian cheese called Bastardo del grappa along side fresh figs and grapes. Sabrina also made an awesome mascarpone cheese and lavender cake but she will have to give you the recipe for that!


oooh baby i like it raw!!!

Would you believe it?
i think that might be what Lustucru translates to from quebecois. Cru also means raw, in case french isn't your mother tongue.
So this new raw bar opened up on Parc avenue right next to Isabel's work and we couldn't wait to try it considering most of us are terribly obsessed with raw meat.

First off, the menu. There was an interesting variety of meat like bison carpaccio, magret de canard, the classic beef tartare of course, lamb tartar, and even horse tartare which was a bit jarring for all of us. In terms of fish, they offered salmon and trout. There was also a chalkboard menu that I'm assuming changes frequently with main courses scribbled all over it but we were there for the bite sized plates of uncooked meat so we didn't try any of those meals.

For the regular raw menu, the portions are tiny but well priced. The salmon tartare comes with an avocado wasabi mayo mousse which sounds exciting but is overall somewhat bland. The menu says there's ginger in the mix but I couldn't really taste it. Avocado and salmon is an obvious combination and I would have enjoyed it if they would have been more creative with the dish. Or if it would have simply been more flavourful.

Next, I ordered the magret de canard which was by far the best plate for me. It was delicate and delicious, covered in olives and came with a yogourt nut mixture and figs which complemented the duck perfectly.
The bison carpaccio was also interesting but I'd have to say I prefer bison tartare. The texture just didn't do it for me. And it came with deep fried vegetables which I don't like at all.

The wine Philippa picked was absolutely amazing! It was a chardonnay called Chaverny Blanc 2009, Domaine Sauger, for 35$.

So I tend to judge a restaurant's bread service pretty harshly because i don't understand how a place can simply expect people to just eat cold white bread with cold hard butter. If nothing else, the bread should be warm!!
I like when there's a variety of bread, like Garde Manger, they have white, whole wheat and olive bread. All three!!! And not only do they offer butter but also the most delicious caramelized onion walnut creme cheese dip!
That's a bread service.
Lustucru's white baguette was actually quite tasty but they didn't win any points in terms of creativity or effort. It was cold!

Basically I enjoyed my food but there was lacking something in the overall experience that would entice me to return for a second visit. The bite sized dishes were great but not mind-blowing and the ambiance wasn't warm and cozy enough to make it a regular spot. I'd still rather pay a bit more and go to L'assomoire to quench my seafood tartare and ceviche cravings.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

raw meat/animal party!!

July 30th we threw our first raw meat party!
I hosted a dinner based on the theme that we would dress up as animals and eat what they eat... raw meat.
So i went down to atwater market that day and bought minced veal and steak from the Les Tours butcher.
I was inspired by the recipes in this book on tartares by Laurence du Tilly that Claire had sent me from Paris for my birthday.
The party was a success except for a few animal activists who now hate our guts.
Also, it was luckily a cold summer night so the fur wasn't completely inappropriate...


steak tartare (for 4 people, main course)
-800g minced meat (must be really fresh and high quality so as not to get sick and die!!)
-green onions
-diced dill pickles
-2 tbsp olive oil
-2 tbsp walnut oil
-dijon mustard to taste
-salt and pepper

vin: rouge, Saint-Emilion

veal tartare (for 4 people, main course)
-600g minced veal (once again needs to be super fresh!!!)
-50g green olives
-50g kalamata olives
-2 tbsp olive oil
-dash of truffle oil
-place on a bed of arugula
-salt and pepper

vegetable tartare with fresh cheese
-dice in tiny cubes any vegetables you have on hand and enjoy such as carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomato, corn, radish, etc.
-mix all veggies together with olive oil
-place a portion of the fresh cheese (we used amazing italian ricotta) on a plate and cover with the veggie mix
-salt and pepper


Le Salon Gourmand

[goor-mahnd, goor-muhnd] Show IPA
a person who is fond of good eating, often indiscriminatingly and to excess.
a gourmet; epicure.

A salon was traditionally a periodic gathering popular during the Belle Epoque where the salonniere would host society's most prominent intellectuals, politicians, artists and fashion crowd.

Our salon gourmand is a gathering place for girls with a penchant for indulging in food and wine. It's a place to discuss Montreal's many flavours and gourmand offerings and, more importantly an excuse to get together and savour delicious food, drink way too much wine and dress up in fancy outfits.
Restaurant reviews and themed dinner parties.
Original recipes and wine tastings.
Getting to know the city and ourselves through our taste buds.
Bienvenue au Salon Gourmand...