Archive for December, 2009

December 27th, 2009 Uncategorized | Leave a comment !


I’m sure many of you are familiar with the whole “baby carrots” debate. Dipped in formaldehyde or turpentine or something very bad for you, they’re stripped of nutrition, totally worthless, and as my friend Brent said “you might as well be eating cardboard.”


On a purely aesthetic level, baby carrots are like tiny little you-know-whats. They’re girlie diet food. The MacDonalds of healthy eating, baby carrots are for people with no imaginations.


Now I’m no food scientist and I’m certainly not acquainted with all the facts (which are maybe overstated and untrue) but the minute I started hearing the debate I stopped buying baby carrots and I’m so glad. It was like I rediscovered the carrot. Real carrots are much tastier and they don’t get all white and mouldy when they sit in the fridge for too long. Regular carrots are also more handsome, especially when they’re fresh with a bouquet of green stems still attached. But I also like the giant bags of pantry carrots, they have real weight, last for weeks, always ready to be used in soups, stir fries, or chopped finely into a pilaf. Like a solid man with a sense of values, a big bag of carrots gives me a sense of security. And the size? Much more impressive!!


The FC loves his carrots as much as Bugs Bunny and he like to eat them whole, like a real man should. As for me, I like my carrots cut into slices so you can see the underlying layers of colour and texture– and they’re much better for dips. I’m also captivated by those trippy multi-coloured ones that are becoming more and more popular in Montreal.


Welcome back real carrots. I love you!


Cumin Carrot Soup


My friend Louisa, a terrific cook who’s dinner invitations always fill me with anticipation, whipped up this beauty of a carrot soup the other night. The pecans and butter propel the sometimes-humble carrot soup into a whole new stratosphere of sex appeal. Yet it’s not-overly exotic either, which is refreshing, since I find the usual coconut, garlic, ginger coriander jamboree often drowns out the carrots. Instead, this soup lets the carrot’s essential flavour remain central. A perfect soup for entertaining. Here’s the recipe.




1 medium onion, chopped (3/4 cup)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2-3 large carrots, sliced thin (about 1 3/4 cups)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

2 cups water (or chicken broth, Louisa uses broth)

2 tablespoons pecans, chopped coarse

1 teaspoon unsalted butter for tossing the toasted pecan garnish




Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook onion in butter over moderate heat,
stirring until softened. Add carrots, cumin and salt and cook, stirring 1
minute. Addd water or broth and simmer, covered, 25 minutes or until carrots are very tender.


Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, toast pecans in the middle of oven until fragrant or one shade darker. Toss pecans with butter and salt to taste. In a blender puree soup until smooth. Divide soup between bowls and top with pecans.


The Christmas holidays don’t just sneak up on you, they leap out of the bushes
and hold a knife to your throat, urging you to get busy shopping, spending,
overeating and making travel plans to wherever the hell you’re supposed to be
celebrating. This season the FC and I are going to the French Alps with his
family, which sounds oh so romantic and wonderful except for the fact that I
just found out I can’t ski for two weeks due to a tiny sports injury so I”ll be
stuck in the chalet for most of the trip staring at the snow while the FC hits
the hills with his cousin. Sounds fun, huh?


The sad truth is, holidays happen even when your life isn’t ready for them.
That’s how I’m feeling today. Harried and stressed and fat and very bah
humbuggy. I didn’t even have time to bake Christmas cookies (I bought the cutest
cookie tins just for this purpose) or throw a cocktail party for my friend
Brent, or blog about mulled cider and other delicious holiday drinkables.


Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “Boo hooh, you’re going to the French Alps.
Boo hooh, no Christmas cookies and cocktail parties. Boo hooh, you have a cute
French boyfriend. Stuff a Christmas sock in it sister, will ya?!!! Life could be
much, much worse.”  And I know you’re right. I should stop complaining. It’s
just today, I don’t feel like going on a holiday.  All I want to do is lie under
the covers and cry because life isn’t always a bowl of buttermilk pancake batter
and cooking isn’t always the cure for what ails you.


That said, here’s the Christmas cookie recipe I wanted to make. It’s from
Nigella Christmas.  If I can’t inspire holiday cheer, maybe somebody else can
do it for me. Please try the cookies and let me know how they turn out. (Gigi,
Brent. Alexandra?) The cookies are supposed to be gorgeous.


Let Nigella pack on the pounds (there's like a pound of butter in these cookies!) No, I'm going to lose weight this Christmas.

December 8th, 2009 Uncategorized | Leave a comment !



In Montreal, there’s something called the Seasonal Relationship Theory (SRT for short.) According to the theory, couples tend to hook up in the winter and break up in the spring. And it’s true. Montreal winters are definitely the time for romance.  The snow-covered streets sparkle in the sunshine. At night, windows glow with warm light. Though we’re all covered up in lumpy shapeless coats and silly toques, there’s a lusty fire in our hearts. We want, nay, we need, to meet a warm special someone to snuggle up with on those cruel minus twenty nights. It’s a question of survival!


Despite the cold, I love the winter season. I especially love ice staking in Parc La Fontaine and the Belgian hot chocolate at Au Festin de Babette.


I also love winter because that’s when I met the FC. He was my Christmas present from the gods. Together, we kept winter warm. And luckily we decided not to break up in the spring.



Jonas St Michel Esq. throws the best parties in Montreal.  He lives in a
charming apartment above a travel agency so you can dance your pants off all
night without disturbing anyone. It’s always impressive, how many smouldering
Montreal beauties of all ages gather at his place to drink voluminous quantities
of wine, flirt and smoke cigarrettes. It’s a den of Dionysian joie do vivre.
Even when it’s just a few of us playing poker, Jonas has a way of making every
occasion into a fete.  He’s practically a wizard!


In fact, people get so crazy they don’t just lose their heads, they lose their
hats, scarves, sweaters and even pants. (Our friend Marc has been known on more
than one occasion to rip off all his clothes (yes all) at Jonas’ soirees.  Not
surprising, Jonas’ lost and found is extensive and I shudder to think of what
other items of clothing he’s found in his bedroom/cloakroom.


Being such a steady provider of Montreal merriment, this year, we felt Jonas
deserved extra special treatment for his birthday last Monday night. A special
homemade Jonas-cake seemed in order, something big and impressive and decadent,
yet relaxed too, just like his parties.


My friend Gigi and I chose a chocolate cake recipe we found last year, a
classic double layer Food & Wine recipe (and an Ina Garten fave) that just
screams BIRTHDAY CAKE.   We also decided to host the event at my apartment, to
give Jonas a much-needed break from hosting (and clean up.)  Add a little vin
mousseux into the mix (of the cheap varieties we chose, the best was an Italian
Proseco) a few good friends and a jazz jam session that went until three am.
Players included Gaetano, Marc, Fausto and a mysterious guest drummer. It was a
memorable Monday night, for me and my neighbours. You see, I don’t live above a
travel agency…)


But Jonas deserved it. He loved the cake too. “No one has ever made me a cake
before!” he said. (Come to think of it, no one’s ever made me a cake either. To
up the odds, we should all be making birthday cakes for people we love much more


Happy 36th Jonas. Maybe you live 36 more!!


Jonas burns the candle at one end.

Big Bad Double Chocolate Layer Cake
(adapted from Food & Wine)


The secret to this chocolate cake is the addition of coffee in both the batter
and icing, and the double layer gives you some serious birthday cake stature.
It’s a big, silly, happy birthday cake that every worthy birthday boy, and girl,
will love.




For the cake:


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus some for dusting
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I mixed 1/2 good dark cocoa with 1/4 Fry’s)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I used stove espresso mixed with hot water)


For the frosting:


6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate coarsely chopped
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tabespoon confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules




1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8 inch round cake
pans (I bought aluminum ones from the grocery store) and line them with
parchment paper, butter the paper. Dust the pans with four tapping out any


2. In a big bowl, mix the flour with teh sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda,
baking powder, and salt at low speed. In a medium bowl whisk the buttermilk with
the oil, eggs, vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry
ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until
fully incorporated.


3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a
toothpick is inserted clean. (Our two cakes took more like 45 minutes). Let the
cakes cool for 30 minutes then invert cakes onto a rack to cool completely. (I
used the removable grids on top of my gas stove.) Peel off the parchment paper.


4. Make the frosting:  In a double boiler (one big pan with water simmering and
a smaller one resting inside) melt the chocolate in the smaller pot over the
boiling water, stirring until the chocolate has melted completely. Set aside to
cool to room temperature.


5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter at
medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1
minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the
confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant
coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled
chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.


6. Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up. Evenly spread
one-third of the frosting over the cake to the edge. Top with the second cake
layer, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of
the cake. (Note: This recipe makes a lot of icing, so if you feel like holding
back, you can save a little afterwards for snacking or on your toast the
following day.) Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before slicing,
preferably 2 hours. The cake – and icing – really does come to life when
properly chilled. I also like to add a little extra ground kosher salt around
the edges/sides of the cake, for extra sparkle and bite.