Saturday, March 31, 2007

opening day of bbq season

Nothing signals spring like the smell of barbecue cooking. Those regular trips to fill the propane tank are routine in the summer months. We use the bbq several times a week, grilling everything from whole fish to polenta and everything in between.

Today was our inaugural grill fest. A whole chicken cut up and simply marinated in olive oil, oregano, lemon juice and salt and pepper and grilled to a slight char with smokey flavour throughout. No sides and no condiments but a couple of lemon wedges.

We devoured this whole chicken like it was our last day on earth. Simple ingredients made this chicken taste fresh and delicious and the weather was a sure sign of spring on the horizon.

If this is what we have to look forward to for the next few months, it's going to be an exciting summer...

Friday, March 30, 2007

who needs takeout?

We have always thought that our cravings for chinese food could only be satisfied by heavy, MSG-laden takeout. The deep fried stuff, covered in sticky-sweet sauce. That is, until we decided to experiment for ourselves and create a healthier version of one of our favorite oriental dishes—chicken and vegetable stir-fry.

Authentic chinese food comes from combining authentic ingredients, so a while back we headed to a little oriental market in the West Island and picked up some oyster-flavoured sauce, toasted sesame oil, and some chili-garlic sauce. The keys to a flavourful stir-fry are marinating the meat in advance in some soy sauce, garlic and ginger and cooking at a high heat until the vegetables are tender-crisp, starting with the hardest vegetables first. We like to switch up the meat every so often and use tofu or shrimp as the protein.

Don't be intimidated by this dish. Just use whatever veggies and protein you have in the fridge and some oriental sauces, some broth and plenty of garlic and ginger and you're sure to get a punch of flavour out of this stir-fry. We like to add a dollop of natural peanut butter near the end of the cooking process to thicken the sauce and add some nuttiness.

Dina's success in the kitchen has taught me that the best meals come from using your own creativity and whatever you have in the fridge rather than always following a step-by-step recipe.

Now, what will the weekend have in store?

co-worker of the year!

A friday treat...Yesterday, after coming home from our family dinner (did I mention it was past 9:30pm??) I decided to make banana-chocolate chip bread for my team. They have been working so hard all month happily putting up with my endless demands that I thought it would be nice to do something for them.
I oversee a team of 9 guys - all between the ages of 25 to 35 - and these guys love to eat. As tired as I was last night, it was well worth making because I suddenly had them all wrapped around my finger with one whiff of the chocolately sweet goodness.
A little banana bread can do wonders for the morale of a team....not to mention it'll be great blackmail for at least the next few weeks...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

happy (first) anniversary.....version 3.0

Okay, okay, I promise this is the last that you will hear about our anniversary (till next year!). The Mandel family took us out for dinner tonight to celebrate not only our anniversary but the boy's birthdays, as well. It was a great night, with lots of laughs and great conversations. The highlight for us, though, was the beautiful cake that was brought out for us. It was a sinful, calorie-filled, strawberry cheesecake. It may have been decadent but definitely well worth it. We were all so full from our meals, yet we happily ate our slices.
I wish I had the recipe to share, but then again I think we'd make it way too often. Instead, we'll enjoy the memories and look forward to next year.

Thank you Saba & Safta, Ima & Aba, Shawn & Jenn, and Kenny & Jo-Anna for making it a memorable night....and most importantly a memorable year.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

laab makes the world go round

Are you looking for a quick, healthy and intensely flavourful meal that you can easily prepare during the week? Well, we've been making Laab, a spicy thai dish, nearly every week for the past several months.

Laab (sometimes called Larb), is a hot and sour "salad" from Thailand. It is simply a combination of ground meat (chicken or pork), and a salty (fish sauce), sour (lemon or lime juice) and spicy (chili sauce or sriracha) flavor profile. We've found that the best flavours come from a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy.

Mexico has its tacos, the Chinese have Mabo Dofu (ground meat with tofu and chili peppers), the Italians have their bolognese sauce, and laab is Thailand's most popular ground meat dish. But what sets it apart is that you can pair larb with rice for a heartier meal or serve it on a bed of lettuce for lighter fare.

I have a sneaking suspicion that each time Dina makes this dish she makes it more spicy just to see how much I can handle. Tonight, I'll have nightmares.

1/2 lb ground chicken (or pork)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 tsp ginger (grated)
2 tbsp chili sauce (to taste)
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
2 tsp parsley (chopped)
2 tsp mint (chopped)
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 small onion (finely diced)

Cook the ground meat in a dry pan on medium heat. When meat is fully cooked, add garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes. Add chili sauce, fish sauce and lemon/lime juice and mix thoroughly. If too much liquid evaporates, add some chicken broth. Shut off heat and add chopped parsley, mint and onion. Serve on bed of rice or lettuce leaves and enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2007

sunshine on a cloudy day

There are few things worse than a rainy, cloudy Monday. It's the perfect excuse, though, to make something summery and fresh. It was also a welcome change from our over-indulgent weekend. As delicious as that cake was, it's time to get back to eating healthier. And nothing's healthier than a salad.

We used mâche leaves as the lettuce base. It's a beautiful, crisp lettuce that is a bit peppery and sweet at the same time. A perfect balance. To that we added a ripe avocado and blood orange segments. The avocado adds creaminess that fools your taste buds into thinking that you are eating something rich and indulgent, while the tartness from the blood oranges adds freshness. Blood oranges are excellent this time of year. They're only available for a short time, so get them while you can.

Some grilled shrimp made it a heartier dinner.

Summer Vinaigrette
1 Shallot (minced)
1/2 Lime (juiced)
1/4 c. plain yogurt
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine first three ingredients and slowly drizzle the olive oil in while whisking quickly to emulsify. Add salt & pepper to taste. Dressing will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Salads don't have to be boring. You'll be craving this more and more as summer draws near.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

happy (first) anniversary.....version 2.0

Tradition has it that you are supposed to keep the top layer of your wedding cake and eat it on your 1st anniversary. We saved that top layer all year. Wrapped in foil, it was a piece of our history that we wanted to hold on to. But at some point between Friday and Sunday, we decided that we actually wanted to live to see our 2nd anniversary and decided that it would be wiser to create a new tradition rather than eating a year old cake. So, it was out with the old and in with the new....
We decided to head out to Cocoa Locale. Everyone knows that we are the biggest fans of this quaint little shop. Montreal is full of gourmet patisseries, so we welcome any deviation from that. Cocoa Locale does not pretend to be pretentious or trendy, yet foodies flock to Parc Ave. just to taste their Valrhona Chai cupcake.

They also carry cakes made with fresh ingredients and local produce. We picked up a Lavender Vanilla cake....small enough for the 2 of us. This cake was the perfect substitute for our frozen, memory filled top tier.
This will be our new tradition.
I'll look forward to next year...
This is even worth the year of snoring I'll go through.
Ahh, how a cake makes everything perfect.

happy (first) anniversary!

On this day, we celebrate a year of wedded bliss...and what better way to celebrate than with champagne and a special meal?

We cracked open the bottle of champagne given to us on our honeymoon in the Mexican Riviera, dropped in a couple of blackberries and toasted the many happy years to come.

First course was a pound of mussels, steamed in a broth made with vermouth, shallots, cream and pesto. Absolutely delectable.

The main was a rich and earthy risotto that Dina prepared, which was made with champagne, cauliflower, plenty of garlic and onions and grated grana padano cheese. To top it off, a generous sprinkling of homemade bread crumbs, made by processing day old sourdough bread with anchovies, garlic, fresh rosemary and chili flakes. The cauliflower added creaminess, while the crunchy topping added a textural kick. Too delicious for words.

A delicious dinner and the company of someone you love. No better way to celebrate a special occasion. A year of ups and downs, but the ups were plentiful enough to make us forget the few downs we came across.

morning delight

Everyone always ask me why I wake up so early on the weekend. There is just something special waking up before the world does. They are filled with these quiet moments where you don't have to worry or think about the things you need to get done. I look forward to my early weekend mornings all week. They are by far my favourite part of the weekend, and what get me through the long work week.
I usually sit here with the laptop, freshly brewed coffee in hand, catching up on emails and news stories I missed. If I'm lucky, one of the cats will come and snuggle....
One of the many thoughts I have this early morning is that it is our 1 year wedding anniversary today. How did that happen so quickly? It has been a year full of ups and downs, with a ton of laughs. They say the 1st year is the hardest....don't get me wrong, it sure was an adjustment but if this is the hardest it'll ever be, then we sure are in for a fun ride.
There are no combination of words I could say...but I will tell you one thing, we're better when we're together.
when all of this around us falls,
i'll tell you what we're gonna do
you will shelter me, my love
and I will shelter you

Saturday, March 24, 2007

antipasto? i think not.

Every so often, we like to have an antipasto platter for dinner. We take our favorite salumi, in this case a wine and cheese salami and some hot capicollo, a selection of cheeses and everything in between and pair it with some cocktails for a simple, yet delectable dinner.

Our stop at Jean Talon Market yielded some cheese from a shop called Hamel.

We chose a Manchego, a Spanish Don Helliodoro covered with Rosemary and local firm, raw cow's milk cheese called Grosse Ile.

And what, do you ask, is the perfect beverage to match with an antipasto plate? Martinis!

To pair with that wonderfully fresh sourdough bread from Olive + Gourmando, we prepared some hummus. A simple, yet delicious recipe that you can use to dip crackers, pita chips or crisp veggies in.

1 can of chick peas
2 garlic cloves
1 large lemon (juiced)
1 tsp tahini or natural peanut butter
1/4 cup olive oil (preferably, extra virgin)
Salt & pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, garlic cloves, lemon juice and tahini and pulse until well blended. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While processing, drizzle the olive oil in a steady stream until the mixture becomes thick and smooth. If it's too thick add a little bit of water.

Garnish with extra virgin olive oil and paprika.

i smell spring

One of our favourite summer activities is heading to Jean Talon market on Saturday or Sunday mornings. When we decided to head there today, I knew we would have spring fever.

Living in Quebec has many advantages. One of them is called maple taffy.

This is the process of pulling taffy on snow. It's hot maple syrup poured on fresh snow, wrapped up in a popsicle stick.

What's better than a maple lollipop?
Jean Talon Market, one of North America's largest outdoor markets, has a lot to offer. It has tons of fresh vegetables and fruits, but one of the best known spots there is Havres aux Glaces. This place has the best sorbet in Montreal. They take seasonal flavours and make them into delicious sorbets and gelatos. This week's flavours were Maple (with bits of maple taffy) and Burnt Caramel.

They also have their Easter display up. How cute is this?!?!

breaking bread

A little nondescript sign that says "sorry, we do not accept any credit cards" hangs on the door of one of Montreal's best kept secrets. Olive + Gourmando cannot be categorized as a bakery or a cafe. O+G offers a bounty of fresh breads baked daily, pastries that would make your mouth water and paninis flavoured with seasonal ingredients.

Featured in the March 2006 issue of Gourmet Magazine, O+G boasts gargantuan sourdough loaves made with organic unbleached wheat flour that taste as good as they smell. In fact, all of the breads they bake on premises are made with organic flour, including the fig bread, olive loaf and valrhona chocolate bread.

To satisfy our sweet tooth, we picked up a flaky almond croissant and an apple-cinnamon brioche. We enjoyed our pastries with a strong capuccino, topped with an extra thick layer of crema.

Some of the baked goods on tap: lemon squares, seasonal fruit tarts, cookies, brownies made with valrhona chocolate and illy espresso, and palmiers made with tahitian vanilla. How fancy!

welcome to our blog!

Who we are:

Mony: A 20-something (creeping up to 30) Montrealer who grew up on latkes and schnitzel and grew to love all the finer things in life, including a beautiful woman who showed me all there is to savour.

Dina: A sarcastic, list-loving Indian girl that met a sweet, somewhat naive Jewish guy and somehow we clicked. Hey, they say opposites attract....

Join us in our journey to discover the joys of cooking along with the ups and downs of married life in Montreal...