Category Archives: Family

Valentine’s Dinner Ideas

We asked, “What would you like your Valentine to make you for dinner?” and you answered risotto, crepes, something french, a dinner that begins with Champagne and more than a few said reservations. Personally, I’d take the latter as dinner prepared by my beloved family means heaps of dishes and too many questions on where to find things. Jason had a great gig going for the kitchen-impared guy on Valentine’s Day. Those who wanted to impress their significant other with a “home cooked meal” signed up for an afternoon with my brother, who opened the hotel kitchens for a Valentines inspired cooking lesson. Not only would the eager to please men learn how to prepare a three course meal, but they took the entire meal (prepared) home with them to re-heat! Genius.

We’ve included a couple of our greatest hits. If you don’t have time to pull these off tonight, get it together for Friday or Saturday! Add a bouquet of pretty flowers and a bottle of this Cremant de Bourgogne.

Crêpes with Poached Chicken, Herbs and Gruyere Cheese
For the actual crêpes, use the recipe listed below; OMIT the sugar and add 1 tbsp of fresh chopped herbs.
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
milk, enough to cover
italian flat leaf parsley
fresh thyme
fresh tarragon
fennel, sliced thinly (about 1/2 cup)
salt & pepper
deep saute pan with lid

Butterfly the chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper. Pour in enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan and put in half of your herbs (no need to chop the herbs up, just the fennel into slices). Place your chicken breasts into the pan and lay the remaining herbs over them. Add enough milk to almost cover the chicken. Cover and simmer at a very low heat; about 15 minutes. Do not boil. Flip once during the cooking time and cook for another 15 mintues. Once the chicken is cooked and tender, remove from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing it into thin strips.

In a bowl, add enough of the cheese sauce to coat the chicken. Place desired amount of chicken into each crêpe, roll it up and spoon the cheese sauce over the rolled up crêpe. Garnish with chopped fresh chives. Serve with asparagus.

Gruyere Cheese Sauce
5 tbsp butter
5 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup chicken stock
salt & pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to form a very thick sauce. This is called a roux! Add the milk 1 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the stock, whisk well (the stock will thin out the sauce and add flavor). Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the cheese in three stages, whisking well. You can make this ahead and re-heat just before serving.

1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup water
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp melted butter
small pinch of salt
1/4 cup peanut oil

Combine flour, sugar, salt in a mixing bowl and form a small well. Combine eggs and buttermilk and mix well. Combine Egg mixture to flour mix well. Add the water a little at a time, you are looking for consistency of slightly thickened whole milk (you may not need all the water). Finish batter with melted butter. Warm a small amount of oil on medium heat, making sure the oil is spread throughout the pan. Pour about 1/8 of a cup batter in the center of the pan and tilt the pan in all directions, moving the batter around until it is a very thin layer. You will need to work quickly. The crepe will take about 90 seconds to cook. Flip over and cook for about 30 more seconds. Place on baking paper and let cool.
The crepes can be cooked ahead of time, wrapped and stored in plastic. Cook your crepes in a 8 inch non stick pan (if you are confident you can use a well seasoned stainless steel pan).

350 grams Acquerello rice
300 ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock), needs to be hot
75 ml white wine
1 shallot, finely diced
2 large fennel bulbs, small dice
1 tbsp oil
1 L chicken or vegetable stock, needs to be hot, for use in the second stage of cooking
1/2 c parmesan, freshly grated
acid butter (recipe below)

In a sauce pot, add oil and fennel, cooking on medium heat for about 5 minutes; until fennel is brown. Add shallots and cook for 1 minute, be careful not to burn shallots. Add the rice and toss well with fennel and shallots, cooking for about 1 minute. Season with a pinch of salt and a couple turns of white pepper. Add wine and reduce until dry. Add all of the 300 ml of stock at once and cook until all the stock is reduced. Stir constantly. Once the liquid is reduced dry, remove from heat and spread on a baking sheet and cover tight with plastic wrap. Let is sit on counter until cool. Once the rice is completely cooled, you can store in an airtight container for 1 day.

The key to the best risotto, is to ensure that the stock is boiling when it is added to the rice. You do not want to shock the rice with cold liquid as this will damage the rice grains and start to break them down.

Finishing the Rice
Bring 1 litre of stock to a boil. Place the cooled rice in a sauce pot and turn on the element onto medium-high heat. Add a 1/4 of the liquid and stir. Add more liquid to the rice a little at a time until the kernels are soft but still have a slight bite to them. This should take about 8-10 minutes. To finish the rice, add about 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan and a 1/2 cup acid butter; this needs to be added at the very last second, just before serving. Season to taste.

Acid Butter
1 small onion, sliced thin
250 g salted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
150 ml white wine vinegar
200 ml white wine

In a sauce pot add onion, vinegar and white wine all at once and reduce until completely dry; this is very important – there needs to be no liquid left in the pot, but do not brown the onions. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter a little at a time; this will create an emulsion. Keep whisking until you will have a creamy emulsion. Strain through a very fine sieve. Place in the refrigerator with a thin layer of plastic wrap, but do not cover air tight as you need to leave room for steam to escape. Once this is cool, the butter will solidify. Now cover it with airtight lid. This can be done the day before.

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Christmas is Coming!

I said this to one of my nephews this week and he looked at me with the face that said, “Oh Auntie Kar….”. Jason and I had great intentions of posting delicious holiday cookies and New Year’s party bites, however cooking, family and fun conspired to monopolize our time. For Christmas Day dinner, my sister and I cooked the best organic chickens from my friend’s farm; a farm that doubles as a recovery centre. Roasted brussels sprouts, southern sweet potatoes, maple glazed carrots and a simple stuffing completed our meal. We had piles of homemade cookies and bars and boxes of chocolates to get through. I also hosted five other holiday parties and meals for which I cooked and baked everything from scratch and by January 2nd I was totally exhausted. Via skype, my brother showed off the 15lb prime rib he was cooking for the parents, along with a magnum of champagne. We all giggled as Jason tweeted a live feed of his wife baking macarons – especially when she yelled, “Steward!” from their kitchen. The macarons were utterly picture perfect by the way!

We are both settling into new projects this year and we’re getting ready to bring you new ideas, tips and tricks – once again bringing Michelin Star cooking home. A new set of knives and a digital, red kitchen scale were my favourite gifts. I know it’s a bit late, but if you make a pan or two of these Nanaimo Bars now… don’t have to share them!

Nanaimo Bars
This makes 2 pans (why would you settle for just one pan?).

2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 cup sweetned flaked coconut
2/3 cup finely chopped walnut
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Butter 2 9-inch square metal cake pans. Pre-heat oven to 350. Mix together graham crumbs, coconut, walnuts, cocoa powder and sugar. Add melted butter and eggs and stir until combined. Divide the crumb mixture evenly and press into the prepared pans. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool completely.

3/4 cup butter
6 tbsp custard powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
5-6 cups sifted icing sugar
4-7 tbsp milk

Use your mixer for this if you have one – the custard filling will be lighter and fluffier. Beat together butter, custard powder and vanilla until fairly smooth. Beat in one cup of icing sugar followed by a tablespoon of milk. Alternate until smooth, adding a little more milk if too thick to spread. The filling should be pale yellow and fluffy. Spread over cooled base; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp butter

Use a double boiler or the microwave to melt your chocolate and butter. If I am really honest, I sometimes just melt the chocolate in one of my All-Clad pots, directly over the heat. Make sure the chocolate is smooth and shiny. Immediately spread over filling and refrigerate until almost set, about 30 minutes. It’s best to cut them when cold. You’ll probably eat too many, it’s just the way it is.

Coming up! Valentine’s Day Help for the guys and Jana’s famous Macarons!

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Discovering Quince

Posed with the query, “what to do with quince”, I called my brother who admitted he wasn’t terribly experienced with this fruit. Jason suggested I consult the web, do a little research on quince butter in particular. Quince butter does indeed exist and seems to be the easiest and most common use; simply boil your quince with sugar for quite awhile, press through a sieve and you’re left with a spread the consistency of applesauce. I, however, was dreaming of pretty pink jelly.

Without luck, I tried to find an old cookbook sent to me by an Auntie in the UK – I knew there was a quince jelly recipe to be had in it. Quince is naturally high in pectin, making it perfect for jellies and jams. Once cooked, this pale yellow fruit turns an orange-red and its tart, chalky taste sweetens.

The scent of not quite an apple, not quite a pear and a dose of perfume started to emerge from the fruit after a day of resting on my countertop. Blog posts and recipes addressed the quince’s intoxicating scent and its ancient mystery. Pairing suggestions ranged from sweet to savory; pork, lamb and cheese were the most common. Other cooking methods included poaching with maple syrup or used as the base for a spicy chutney.

With a rich history including possible references in the Bible, ancient Greek weddings and Roman cookbooks, I am suddenly in love with this uncommon fruit. The pink jelly of my dreams materialized and we ate it with a hard cheddar. My daughter requested clotted cream and scones, for which I went knocking on Chef Thierry Delourneaux’s door. He graciously obliged with this recipe for perfect scones that would make my British in-laws proud. Thank you so very much Chef!

You can read about Chef Thierry’s stunning Rhubarb Dessert here.

Quince Jelly

Simply boil the quartered quince (seeds, skin and all) until it’s very tender, mashing it as it cooks. You will have a put of mushy quince and out of the mouth of babes, my kid said it looked “kind of awful”. Using a jelly bag, cheese cloth or a fine sieve you let the juice drip out of the pulp overnight. Finally, you cook the juice with almost equal parts of sugar (just less than one cup sugar per cup of juice). Bring it to a boil to dissolve the sugar, reduce heat, skimming off the foam periodically.

Check for consistency change by placing a bit of jelly on a plate; push it gently with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s ready. I had just enough for one jar, but if you have a greater quantity be sure to have sterilized jars ready to go for canning.

Perfect Scones – Chef Thierry Delourneaux
600grs all purpose flour
34grs baking powder
119gr sugar
140grs butter
300ml Heavy cream
3 Eggs
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
230grs golden raisins
vanilla extract

In a pot, steam raisins with 200mls of heavy cream. When ready spread on a sheet pan and let it cool down.
Sift all dry ingredients, add zests and mix with the paddle into kitchen aid mixer until well incorporated.
Add diced cold butter and mix until no lumps are formed
Add raisins and to the mixture.
Finish by adding egg, vanilla and the remaining heavy cream until dough forms
DO NOT OVER MIX. Chill dough.
Cut to desire size, egg wash and Bake 350F to light brown colour.

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Common Threads, World Festival LA

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Throughout my career I have been very fortunate to work with many amazing charities. Most of my participation has been showing up at a scheduled time and cooking a specific dish for a specific amount of guests, occasionally donating myself to be auctioned off to cook a dinner.

In May of 2009 I was doing a photo shoot in Chicago for a Magazine that was featuring Canadian Chefs that worked outside of Canada. I was just finishing up when a lady walking her dog approached me and asked if I was a new chef in town. She introduced herself as Linda Novick, Executive Director of Common Threads and began to tell me about the mission of this charity. The minute she told me this was a chef driven charity that works with children to teach them how to cook, eat and shop healthier I knew I wanted to get involved.

My very first Common Threads experience was attending a lunch served by the Little Threads. What made this such a special lunch was the kids were cooking for their parents and to see how proud each parent was of their child was life changing. The typical Common Threads child comes from broken and low income homes and to listen to their stories on how learning how to cook has changed their lives was incredible. When speaking to a few of the parents at the lunch there was a common message, each parent spoke about how their child’s confidence had grown and the friendships that were made between the classmates.

What made Common Threads special to me was seeing how involved Chefs were in teaching classes and cooking at the fundraisers. These chefs were some of the most talented and successful chefs in the country and had restaurants that were full night after night but they still found time to work with the children.

Fast forward a couple of years and living back in Southern California, I learned very quickly that there is much more to creating a successful fundraising event than just showing up and cooking food for a couple of hours and then heading home. We started planning the very 1st LA World Festival in March and we capped it off with the main event on November 8th. A truly amazing night of great food and friends showing that Common Threads will succeed in LA.

Not only does Common Threads bring children together to create friendships and bonds that will probably last a life time, it also brings a group of chefs together to form a bond and a friendship that is so very important to the success of our business.

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National Fig Week

Today is the last day of National Fig Week – so we’re getting this post up just in time! Fresh figs are now scarce “up north”, but I did manage to find a few at Whole Foods and a couple of other fresh produce shops a few weeks ago. Figs are full of fibre, potassium, calcium and antioxidants. A perfectly ripe fig can be eaten on its own and should be one of the most delicious foods you’ve eaten! This ancient fruit is versatile, lending itself to both sweet and savoury dishes. This summer my daughter requested fig compote to accompany her brie and chicken sandwich, for which we used dried figs. At the end of August, Jason and I found gorgeous fresh figs at a Sunday market just outside of San Diego. Jason cooked crispy duck breast (fuelled again by a request made by my daughter!), which he simply finished with halved figs. Meanwhile, a friend of mine who is also a faithful reader of A Michelin and A Mom, posted a quick “what to do with a bunch of fresh figs” on our twitter. Jason answered with one word: jam. Following is Rachel’s foray into fig jam!

This past August I had my first real encounter with figs; not having given figs much thought nor had many opportunities to try them or cook with them. To think of all the lovely figs I missed out on! I was introduced to figs somewhat by accident when my landlord’s mother asked me if I would like some fresh figs as her neighbour’s tree was heavy with ripe figs. I was soon ladened with about 2lbs of very ripe figs. I knew I would not be able to eat them all before they were past their prime, so I took to twitter and requested help from Karlin and Jason. I took up Chef’s suggestion for making a jam, and set to “consult the Oracle” (google) for some further direction. The first thing that jumped out at me when reviewing a few recipes is that making fig jam would be very easy! I was surprised that most recipes called for adding no water (I haven’t made much jam in my life so I’m not sure if this is usually the case with other types of jam). The recipes called for varying amounts of sweetener (sugar or honey) and I went on the conservative side (about 1/2 c. of sugar for my 1.5 lbs of figs) as I knew the fruit had a great deal of natural sugars. I also added some balsamic to give the jam some pizazz. You know, because that’s how I roll. The yield for this batch was 2 to 3 cups (I’m guessing on this) and has been delicious with crackers and cheese, and especially with roast chicken, as recommended by Jason. Thanks again for the inspiration, A Michelin and A Mom!

Tomorrow night Jason is proudly part of Common Threads: World Festival Los Angeles. My brother is a member of the Common Threads Advisory Board, which is hosting a fabulous evening to benefit great kids in the L.A. area. The event’s page reads: “At the pristine setting of the London Hotel’s beautiful Hampton Court, guests will be able to stroll around the modern take on an English garden while delighting in mouth-watering bites…” Enjoy the evening and we look forward to a full report from Jason later this week.

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The Vegetable of Many Faces?

Pumpkins, what a “cool” vegetable and is there a more versatile vegetable? My opinion no there is not, and the pumpkin has been around for a very long time. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, were found in Mexico. I am not really sure who or why someone decided that pumpkins were going to be the face of Halloween but what a brilliant idea. The pure joy of watching the competition (some more serious then any professional sports championship) and excitement of the pumpkin carving contest is magical.

Is there anything a pumpkin can not do? We use pumpkins in just about everything from a latte to flavoring beer, savory to sweet and we even toast the seeds that really are simply delicious.

Well I am not going to carve any pumpkins for you today but I have decided to create a very simple dish that I hope you will be inspired by. This dish can be created with out much hassle and I played with the goat cheese a little but you could use crumbled cheese and it would be just as tasty. Hope you enjoy…Jason

Amy’s Wine Picks

For Chef McLeod’s roasted pumpkin and chilled goat cheese ravioli, I recommend a fuller-bodied white wine or a -lighter bodied red to avoid overwhelming the subtle flavors of the goat cheese.

Top Pick: A Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, France, such as Savennières. Chenin Blanc has naturally high acidity and an aggressive bitterness which pairs well with warm fall flavors. In its youth, Savennières can be austere, dry and rigid. But as it ages, it develops a complex honeyed undertone with a rich palate. Two Grand Cru appellations within Savennières include La Roche aux Moines and Coulée de Serrant. Typical aromas include bruised red apples, chamomile tea, wasabi, tangerine, chalk, limestone and wet wool.

Playing it Safe: A lighter-bodied Gamay from Beaujolais, France, complements the roasted flavors of the pumpkin. Beaujolais has a very distinct flavor profile of banana, bubblegum and pear drop due to its aging process, carbonic maceration. This is when the alcoholic fermentation occurs in whole, uncrushed grapes in an anaerobic environment, under the protective blanket of carbon dioxide. The grapes eventually explode and are crushed under the weight of those above it. Other aromas include strawberries, black cherries, violets, and crushed granite.

Off the Beaten Track: Orange wine. Yes, it exists. They are lush and perfect for fall.
One of the best producers is Stanko Radikon. Located in the small town of Oslavia in the Isonzo zone of Fruilli, the winery is known for hand-harvesting, extended skin maceration, large, older barrel fermentations without temperature control, no added yeasts or enzymes, and little or no use of sulfur.

On the Radikon website: “The winery’s philosophy is to always make a natural, organic wine with the least human intervention possible and with the maximum respect for the soils and nature.”
The vineyards were originally planted by Stanko’s grandfather, Franz Mikulus, with the Ribolla Gialla grape. In 1948, Stanko’s parents, who had inherited the property from his mother’s father, planted Merlot, Tocai Friulano and Pinot Grigio. Today, Stanko, his wife, Suzana and son, Sasa maintain their family’s land. The family produces the Jakot (100% Tocai Fruilano), Ribolla Gialla and Oslavje (40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Grigio and 30% Sauvignon)

Amy Payne

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Cooking with Pumpkin

Kürbis is the German word for Pumpkin. In our early days of living in Switzerland, we ventured across the border into Germany and found a decent Italian restaurant recommended to us by one of our friends. It was totally packed and the staff of family were shouting in Italian to one another across the restaurant. They squeezed us in and our waiter (who became our favourite and always had a table for us) suggested we try the soup. Kürbis. We walked through our limited German not knowing what we had ordered until the creamy soup the colour of pale squash arrived. It clicked for one of my kids who immediately figured it out and said with a smile, “pumpkin soup”!

Haven’t you always wanted to try fresh pumpkin? Did it seem daunting and perhaps even a little strange? Buying, washing, cutting up and roasting your own pumpkin is so easy, you may never go back to the tins. For both of the recipes featured today, I used Organic Sugar Pumpkins. We were also given a white pumpkin which we cut up, roasted and pureed as well; the puree was a lovely pale colour. Roasted cubes of pumpkin with a little olive oil and salt were happily eaten as we waited for the cubes to cool.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup
1 – 3lb pumpkin
olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 cups chopped leeks
1-2 shallots, chopped
1.5 – 2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
(I used the large tetra pack)
1/2 cup milk or cream

Wash the pumpkin well before you cut it. Cut it and clean it out (save the seeds for roasting). Working in small sections, slice off the rind and any leftover pulp. Cut the pumpkin into cubes. Drizzle the cubes with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Lay cubes out onto a deep baking dish, leaving room between each cube if possible. If you have a convection oven, put it onto “Roast” and pre heat to 400 degrees. The pumpkin cooks perfectly – tender on the inside, slightly crispy and brown on the outside. Keep an eye on it – you don’t want burnt pumpkin (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from oven and set aside.

In a deep saute pan or your soup pot, melt the butter on medium-high heat – do not brown the butter. Add leeks, shallots and pinch of salt. Cook for quite awhile – you want the leeks tender and bright green; you will be “sweating” the leeks and shallots, stirring often. Add the cubes of pumpkin when leeks are tender and cover with all of the stock. Stir and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. You can use a hand blender to blend the soup or s traditional blender (work is small amounts to puree). Return all the pureed soup to your pot and heat on medium. This is when I added a little milk – the soup was too thick for our taste – use your judgement at this stage and adjust to your taste. Also, add salt as needed or desired.

To Finish the soup, you have a few choices…
** A little dollop of Creme Fraiche is a wonderful addition.
** Toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled in each bowl creates an interesting texture.
** To really impress, top the soup with Brown Butter or Beurre Noisette (also used in the Madelines) and Sage. Once the butter has browned, add the fresh sage leaves to soften. Drizzle just a few drops over each bowl of soup and add a sage leaf to each bowl as well.

Patricia’s Glazed Pumpkin Cookies
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/2 tsp vanilla (you can omit maple and use 1 tsp vanilla)
1 cup icing sugar

Pre heat oven to 325 degrees. Sift and set aside dry ingredients. Beat together butter, and sugar until creamy. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla (the mixture may look curdled, but smooths out when you start to add flour). Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture until blended – do not over mix. Drop by teaspoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 12-15 minutes – test for doneness by lightly touching the top of the cookie; it should spring back.

To make the glaze, combine brown sugar with milk and butter in a small/med saucepan and heat until it comes to a boil. Allow to boil for one minute, remove from heat and add maple and vanilla extracts. Add the sifted icing sugar 1/4 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. The glaze should be smooth but not so thick it is spreadable. Whisk until smooth. Dip the cooled cookies (dip the tops or half of each cookie) into the glaze and set on a cookie sheet/parchment to dry. The glaze should be warm for best results.
Eat the cookies while they are still warm (a little messy but so good) or cool for several hours if you prefer the glaze to be set.

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Food, Art, Science & Brussels Sprouts

This post was really supposed to go out on Monday, but being a real life Mom, unexpected life got in the way. Namely an orthodontist appointment, Halloween costume shopping at the thrift store and one of my dogs got skunked. Seriously, skunked at 6:30 am and all day later, we were still trying to air out the house.

A different story last week as I luxuriously took off an afternoon, midweek with my friend Rob, to catch a screening of El Bulli: Cooking in Progress. 108 minutes of quiet food preparation disguised as a science experiment; or vice versa. Admittedly, I am familiar with Ferrán Adrià and El Bulli in part because I simply pay attention when my brother is telling me about the foreign world of professional kitchens. The concept of molecular gastronomy is not lost on me, however, I’m not sure I want to be “startled” during a 25-30 course meal of small bites. During a Sunday afternoon family meal in Puebla, Mexico, I was “surprised” when I finally remembered the English words for the salty filling in the tacos I was eating – pig’s brain – and I couldn’t carry on; I realize this moves me down the foodie pyramid.

I’ll make the move towards the expected and tell you the documentary shows the relationship between food, art and science. There is certainly an undeniable connection between cooking and science, and the film documents this process and discovery very well. Seeing a well crafted meal drawn together by a team of talented chefs as art is a natural leap. I’m going to quote my movie date verbatim, “Most of the dishes looked interesting but not appetizing. They challenged our ideas surrounding food, exposing the baggage we have about food. I’d imagine a meal at El Bulli to be a bit of a journey, almost like a funhouse maze.” These words could easily be spoken in the context of a gallery or art museum. We liked the visual presentation of experiment and the chance to take a glimpse of the team behind one of the world’s most famous restaurants.

At one point in the film, Ferrán Adrià tells his chefs something along the lines of ‘just do not give me anything that tastes bad’ – seemingly simple and something I’d like to proceed me before I arrive to dinner. This may be the only concept we can transition into the parameters of our own cooking; we all know everyday life calls for real food that is easy to prepare. Good food doesn’t have to be complicated and we are going to continue to explore that over the next few weeks.

I am going to leave you with a simple recipe that I pinched 100% from my friend Lisa, an excellent cook with impeccable taste in wine. She created this recipe for (Canadian) Thanksgiving. A perfect example of how you can make an everyday vegetable taste extraordinary with a few simple steps. Thank you Lisa for sharing this really delicious recipe with A Michelin and A Mom.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts
Olive Oil
Kosher salt
Sea Salt Flakes
Parmesan Cheese, Fresh & Grated

Heat oven to 350. Trim the ends of the sprouts and peel off any unappealing leaves. Quarter or halve (depending on size) the sprouts and soak in water, rinse and place in a bowl. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Place in a deep baking sheet or pan and roast until the sprouts are just tender and sizzling. Some of the leaves will fall away and turn brown (eat these too!). Approximately 20 minutes – longer if you want a more traditional texture (we prefer them not too soft). Remove, place the cooked sprouts into a serving bowl, sprinkle with a little flaky sea salt and the freshly grated parmesan.

Bonus Recipe – Simple Apple Cake
This is for the Whistler ladies!
Makes 2 – 8″ round cakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
(you can cut the spices in half if you want a milder flavour)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 an apple, grated, optional
toasted and chopped pecans, optional

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt; set aside. In your mixer, cream together butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time followed by the applesauce. Mix well. By hand, fold in the grated apple and pecans if you are adding the apples and nuts. Butter and flour your baking pans, pouring half the mixture into each pan, smoothing out the top. You can make one large cake (or a layer cake), but my kids like a high icing to cake ratio (and they like to grab and go with their cake). Ice each cake with cream cheese frosting

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Green & Black’s Times Two

Being invited to the Green & Black’s chocolate tasting in L.A. was like a dream come true, alas I live in the Great White North, ‘eh! I gladly settled for a FedEx package of luxury chocolate bars delivered straight to my door. I truly love chocolate, but can be a chocolate snob, preferring a deliciously dark or a perfectly creamy bar over the corner store varieties of candy bars (although I would be hard pressed to turn down a Kit-Kat). Living in Switzerland, we surely ate chocolate in some form every day and often treated ourselves to a chocolate pyramid cake from Sprüngli. I first discovered Green & Black’s chocolate while in the UK many years ago and was thrilled to discover an organic, fairly traded chocolate bar; I bought a good supplies worth to take home to Canada. Over the past several years, Green & Black’s has become readily available at all of my local favorite shops.

Baking with good chocolate is like using real butter and cooking with a wine you would actually drink. What a treat to use the 70% Dark Chocolate for my Dark Chocolate Crème Brûlée; see recipe below. I paired this with A Michelin and A Mom’s Citrus Madelines (dusted with powdered sugar). Green & Black’s also sent one of my all time favorites – Dark Chocolate with Cherry – which I simply paired with a local BC Ice Wine (Paradise Ranch Chardonnay – nothing short of gorgeous).

I will admit this dessert may have been easier and just as delicious as a straight up pudding or custard. I found the dark chocolate finicky when it came time to broil the sugar. I opted for a low heat torch that didn’t allow for a thick crust, but in the end was better as the chocolate was rich enough. My husband said it was substantial but not overpowering and the hint of citrus in the Madeline was a perfect accompaniment.

Check out Green & Black’s very informative website where you’ll find the company story, how to host a chocolate tasting and the basics of the cocoa bean (did you know there are 45 cocoa beans in each pod?).

Dark Chocolate Crème Brûlée (Pudding)
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup light cream
3.5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla – set aside. Heat whip cream and cream until very hot, whisking almost constantly. Turn off or remove from heat, add chopped chocolate and whisk until chocolate has melted. Add a little of the chocolate mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisk well. Continue adding a little of the chocolate mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking well after each addition. Fill up your kettle and start it to boil. Place your ramekins (ramequins) into a deep oven safe pan, filling each one about 3/4 full with your chocolate mixture. Now use the boiling water to fill the baking pan with hot water (water should reach about half way up the ramekins). Bake for about 40 minutes – chocolate should be springy and not sticky to a light touch. Remove and chill. (You can eat this delicious dessert now – add a dollop of whip cream to create a perfect pudding) After chilling for several hours (if possible), sprinkle each ramekin with granulated sugar. Ensure the sugar is evenly spread by tapping and gently shaking the ramekin. The easiest and best way to create the brûlée is with a handheld torch; however you can use the broiler in your oven. It would appear that the best way to use the traditional broiler to completely chill the dessert, add the sugar and then place it in an ice bath of sorts. Add cold water and ice to the baking dish you used previously to help diminish the heat reaching your custard. I will warn you this is particularly tricky as the sugar will easily burn.

This makes about 5 servings, but if you double the recipe and use a deeper or wider ramekin, you will yield about 8 servings.

**I found my pretty Madeline pan at Bella Vita**

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Kabocha Squash or Japanese Pumpkin

I know it is a little early to be thinking fall or maybe we just don’t want to admit summer has come and gone so quickly? Fall is such a spectacular time of year (depending on where you live it is a little more spectacular) and the product you start to find at the market just screams full bold flavors and the Kabocha Squash is a perfect example of these flavors. Sunday morning I was up early and off to the La Jolla Market as I usually do, I was a little more excited than usual as the week before I had met a farmer that was selling fresh dates from Indio, CA (just outside Palm Springs) and they were just simply perfect, but this is for another time, stay tuned 😉
As I was walking around the market admiring the beautiful tomatoes I stumbled across a booth that had Kabocha Squash and I think I even let out a little yelp of excitement, had a quick chat with the farmer and then off I went with my 5lb Squash.
One of my favorite soups is a squash, and this is the squash to make it with, but I was even a little more excited about making this recipe for I had just received in the mail from my good friend Mr. Tim Burton from Maplewood Farms in Medora, Indiana a bottle of Bourbon Ale infused Maple Syrup. (a creation he created with Goose Island Brewery in Chicago). This was going to some how make it into the squash soup.
Over the years in this industry I have had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing individuals that share such a passion for their product that they grow, harvest and create. This passion challenges you even more to respect and create the best dish you possibly can. As you will see in this recipe there are really only 5 ingredients, I want to let the main ingredients shine with out masking their flavors. Each one of the ingredients is there to support the main ingredient in this case the Kabocha Squash. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.

5lb Squash Peeled, seeds removed and rough chopped
1 Small Onion peeled and chopped
1 Quart Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup (get your hands on Tim’s Syrup it is so worth it, you can buy on line)
Crème fraiche
(You can add a few pieces of bacon to this recipe and it creates a nice hint of smokiness, Beautiful)

Pre-heat oven to 450 F
Toss squash and onion in a little oil and seasoning place in oven and cook for about 30 mins the squash will start to brown this is good. Add the Maple Syrup 5 mins before squash is cooked.
In a large pot heat the chicken stock and add the squash right out of the oven, cook for 5 mins
Place mixture in blender and puree until smooth, pass through a fine mesh strainer
At this point you have the base and the soup can be stored in the fridge until needed.
To serve heat the soup and add desired about of crème fraiche and a little stock if the soup is to thick.

Garnish with a few croutons for crunch, I used a squaw bread crouton, works very well with this soup.

Amy’s Wine Picks

Chef McLeod’s Kabocha squash soup is a perfect dish for a brisk fall evening. I have selected wines that have warm flavors to complement the change of the season.

Top pick: Chardonnay. It will accentuate the buttery flavors of the soup. I am partial to French Burgundy, because I prefer a Chardonnay that expresses terroir and hasn’t been masked with over-the-top oak treatment. But there are some Burgundian-style producers in California that are allowing the grape to show its true colors. Some affordable examples are Talbott and Au Bon Climat.

Playing it safe: Pinot Noir. Typical aromas for Pinot Noir include red fruit of cherries, strawberries, and cranberries, violets, tomato leaf, cured meats and black tea. It is a perfect fall wine and will complement the roasted onions. Try Cold Heaven Cellars from Santa Barbara County.

Off the beaten track: Beaujolais. Typical aromas for Gamay include strawberry, black cherry, pear drop, bubblegum, violets, banana and crushed granite. I recommend serving it slightly chilled. It will bring out the naturally sweet flavors of the Kabocha squash. Try Jean Paul Brun Morgon Terres Dorées, $19.99.

Amy Payne

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