Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spiced Hokkaido Pumpkin Soup

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After living in Germany for almost four months now, I can tell you much has changed for my views about the food culture here. Actually, much has changed for my views of Germany in general. This is probably due to the fact that I now live in Berlin, and anyone who lives in or has visited Berlin would most likely agree, that this city, is in a class of its own.

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Firstly, I must clear the rumor of all Germans loving meat. This may seem true in the southern parts of Germany, but here in Berlin—Europe's vegetarian capital, it's not. You might not see as many vegetarian restaurants as you would in Toronto, but for Europe, Berlin is the most likely place for PETA to set up an European office.

Berlin is also the most likely place where you would see street art on the side of buildings, graffit on doors, abandoned buildings turned into clubs, musicians on the street, musicians in the subways, dogs off leashes walking by their owners, beers caps engraved into the ground, karaoke in the park,  people eating döners at lunch, people eating döners at 2 in the morning, people eating burgers at Burgermeister when it's 3 in the morning and people drinking at 10 in the morning from the night before. It's a city where people eat, drink, party, create, design, innovate, love and live.

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It's a city that still searches for it's identity, constantly changing and evolving, people moving in and people moving ou—well, I haven't met anyone moving out of Berlin, only people who intended to stay for a few months, which turned into a few years. But I suppose there is a reason for that, because as I settle into the city, I feel this mysterious attraction and longing to discover more.

You may love New York, but Berlin loves you.

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As for this pumpkin soup, which doesn't seem to be the actual topic of this post, it's pumpkin season and well, soup season, so get your hand blender ready and start making this delicious spiced Hokkaido pumpkin soup. And the benefit for using hokkaido pumpkins, you don't need to peel them, but you can scrap off the warty looking bits if it makes you feel any better.

Guten Appetit!

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Spiced Hokkaido Pumpkin Soup
Makes 6-8 servings (depending how hungry you are)
  • 1 average sized Hokkaido pumpkin, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 2-3 smaller potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp of curry powder
  • 1 tsp of ground coriander 
  • 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • focaccia bread for croutons
  • crèam fraîche for garnish
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  1. In a large saucepan, on medium heat, gently fry 3 tbsp of olive oil with the chopped onions until soft.
  2. Add the pumpkin, potatoes, garlic and the four spices. Fry for about 10 minutes or until everything looks happy together. 
  3. Pour in the stock, you may not need it all, depending how thick you like your soup. Begin by just cover the top of pumpkin with the stock, you can add more later if you feel it is too thick. pumpkinsoup_d2 
  4. Cover and simmer until the pumpkin and potatoes are tender and soft, about 10-12 minutes. 
  5. Using a hand blender, puree the pumpkin and potatoes until smooth and creamy. Here is where you can add more stock if you like. Add salt and pepper to taste.     pumpkinsoup_d3
  6. For the croutons, cut up chunks of focaccia bread and fry in a pan with a bit of olive oil.pumpkinsoup_d4
  7. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with crèam fraîche and croutons. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nudelsalat (German Noodle Salad)


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After telling people I was moving to Germany, I was warned about German food.

"They don't have fresh fruits or vegetables"

"All they eat is meat"

"All they drink is beer"

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Now the third statement is the closes to the truth, however, the first, is far from it. In fact the first time I went into a German grocery store I was pleasantly surprised at how beautifully red the tomatoes were and how brightly colourful the fruits looked. And their basil (basilikum), is sold as a plant, you can't get it in those plastic containers, it's only sold as a plant. If that's not fresh, I'm not sure what is.

As for meat, well the German do love their meat. But that's not all they eat. They eat cheese too.

So just meat and cheese, that's what Germans eat, oh yah and pretzels. Meat, cheese and pretzels.

Okay, Germans are pretty easy to stereotype, but that's why I love them so much! However, after being in Germany for almost a month now, I've realized their dishes are not as simple as meat, cheese and pretzels. In fact many regions in Germany have their own dishes that they are known for. Since I've spent a lot of time in Stuttgart, visiting a good friend of mine, she's acquainted me with all sorts of Schwaben dishes, including Käse Spätzle and the very versatile Maultaschen. Maultaschen is a stuffed pasta, similar to a ravioli, filled with ground bratwurst, eggs, spinach and parsley. It's a dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and even in a soup (Suppenmaultaschen). 

Although Germans and Canadians are quite different, we do have one thing in common, we both enjoy a good barbecue. I went to my first German barbecue in Stuttgart, actually just outside Stuttgart in a small village. The trek to the barbecue was pretty entertaining, drove through vineyards and orchards, and realized we were in the wrong village and had to go one village further. I wasn't complaining, it was a beautiful ride. And with us we brought Nudelsalat, a German noodle salad, the perfect combination for bratwurst and beer. It is probably the most addictive noodle salad I have ever had. 

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One thing I have to mention is that we used THOMY Mayo for the noodle salad. This is probably my most favourite thing in Germany and the best mayo in the world. It's not like any other mayo, there is seriously some magical ingredient in there that I just can't describe to you. But if you must, use your regular mayo, it shall suffice. 

Enjoy!

Nudelsalat (Noodle Salad)
Makes a large bowl to bring to a BBQ

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  • 670 g of pickles
  • 300 g of sweet cooked corn kernels
  • 350 ml of mayo
  • 3 hard boiled eggs
  • 500 g of pasta (I prefer using shell shaped pastas)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt. Cook the pasta until al dente. Set aside. 
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Grate all the pickles in a large bowl and add all the pickle juice from the jar. Pour in the corn and mayo. Mix ingredients together. noodleSalad_d.jpgnoodleSalad_d1.jpg
  3. Shell the hard boiled eggs and chop into small pieces. Add into pickle corn mixture. noodleSalad_d2.jpg
  4. Combine the dressing with the cook pasta. The excess juice will thicken. 
*Serve this salad the day of. Although the dressing may taste even better the next day, the noodles become soggy... and well, no one likes soggy noodles. 

*Sorry for the metric measurements, (I'm in Europe now baby) but I used all the ingredients in the picture above (except I only used 2/3 of a full jar of mayo). If you add more or less of something, it will still schmeckt gut (taste good)!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Paris


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How do I describe Paris?  One word. Beautiful.

I'm not exaggerating. Every, single, thing, in Paris, is simply beautiful. It's almost eerie because you think, okay, when am I going to see real life, when am I going to see a building without cute flowers on the window sill, or someone who is wearing sweats or "lululemons". Not saying I enjoy seeing people in sweats, but there definitely is something about the French... or Parisians, and the way they present themselves. It's quite wonderful actually.

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Being in Paris for a week I could only do so much. Go to the Louvre, snap a picture of the Mona Lisa, head to Champs-Élysées, snap a picture of the Arc de Triomphe, climb the hill to Sacré-Cœur and pretend to be Amélie for a day. Yes, I was a complete tourist, but it had to be done. 


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But these pictures are never really the moments you remember when you visit a city. At least for me, it's being able to experience the city like a local, the everyday life, where they eat, where they have fun, and luckly for me I had my very own Parisans to show me around. 


I can't remember all places we ate at or the types of wine we drank. David Lebovitz can tell you all the specifics, which restaurant to go to, which type of cheese to buy. I'm just going to tell you what to do... in general. And it doesn't consist of going to Café de Flore and spending 15€ on a gin and tonic. 


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First things first. Get a croissant. But don't get it at the metro station. This may seem like an obvious thing but I made the mistake of thinking all croissant in Paris would be amazing. Nope, I was wrong. My friend lives in the 10th district and there was a boulanger patissier (pastry shop) close to his flat where I would go every morning and get one. You don't have to go all the way to this district just to get a croissant, but it also wouldn't hurt to explore a little.

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Find a local cheese shop and buy some cheese. Since Lebovitz often talks about cheese I thought I should find a shop he suggested. So I headed to Pascal Beillevaire, the one he recommended, but accidentally walked into another shop thinking it was the right one. I asked the owner if I was at the Pascal Beillevaire, he shyly laughed, as if I gave him a compliment and said, "Oh, no it is farther down the street, pass the church". Then a lady waiting behind me said the cheese shop I was in is just as good and not as expenive. The owner of the shop was so nice and humble and cute, that I ended up buying cheese from him too. In fact, I bought more cheese at his shop (Fromagerie Beaufils) than at Pascal Beillevaire. Plus I had to compare their Compté. 


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Fromagerie Beaufils: 118, rue de Belleville (20th) - 75020 Paris

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Pascal Beillevaire: 140, rue de Belleville (20th)

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Next, buy a baguette and walk down the street with it. Even if you don't like bread, which I'm not sure is possible, do it anyway. You will feel so French. I'm not kidding when I say French people actually walk down the streets with baguettes in their hands. It is so French and you will feel so French. And of course, the cheese in your other hand, will even make you smell French.

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Hopefully after a few days you have made some French friends and they have invited you to watch football with them. Instead of bringing nachos or wings, bring saucisson and gateaux aperitifs, especially Chipster or TUC crackers.

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For dinner, find a cute little crêperie restaurant and have a savoury crêpe (la galette) with apple cider. For dessert, the crème brûlée is calling your name.


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(This guy looked so French, I just had to take a picture.)


And if your still hungry at 3 in the morning, a crêpe bolognaise will do. 


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Finally, the one thing you must do while in Paris,  have a Parisian picnic along la Seine. Bring a few bottles of rosé, or white or red, whatever you like. Drink and eat all night, watch people in the tour boats pass by, listen to the laughter and music that goes on in the background. And don't hesitate to talk to a guy that walks by asking for cigarettes, you may learn a thing or two from Paul. 


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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake


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It's happening.

Le Petit Ogre is heading to Paris, to eat all the croissants, pains au chocolats, macarons et éclairs au chocolat in the city. Everything I adore will be at my finger tips. Pastries, cheese, wine, fashion, art... love. All this, in one city. It must be one magical city. It must be.

What else could have inspired Hemingway's honest style of writing, or Monet's beautiful brush strokes, or even Remy's ability to create a ratatouille so delicious, it brings nostalgic memories. I mean New York was just like the movies, it was just like Sinatra, Jay-Z and Alicia describe it. So hopefully Paris will be the same...

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Now as much as I would love to celebrate the news by attempting to make croissants, I came across this irresistible strawberry shortcake recipe that I just had to try. What intrigued me about the recipe was the use of hard-cooked yolk for the biscuit dough. Unlike raw yolk, hard-cooked yolk doesn't absorb into the dough and instead floats freely with the flour.  This creates a delicate, crumbly texture when baked and is simply delightful to eat.

Enjoy!

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Strawberry Shortcake
Makes 6 shortcakes (and 2 not so big ones...)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp tsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 hard boiled egg yolks, pushed through a small mesh sieve
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 pints of fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
  • 1 tbsp of sugar (for strawberries)
whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Sift together the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the baking powder into a bowl. Add the chilled butter pieces and work the butter into the flour mix with a pastry cutter or fork until you reach the consistency of course crumbs. Add the sieved hard-boiled egg yolks and the cream; gently mix until the dough just come together. strawberryshortcake1.jpg
  2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and gently kneed to make a smooth dough. Roll out the dough to make a 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick round. using a lightly floured 2 1/2 inch-round cookie cutter, cut out 6 shortcakes or until all the dough is used. Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with the reserved tbsp of sugar. Place the shortcake on a plate lined with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. strawberryshortcake4.jpg
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Transfer the chilled shortcakes to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. 
  4. While the shortcakes cool, prepare the fruit filling and whipped cream. Place strawberries in a bowl and add the sugar. Gently stir and set aside. 
  5. Whip the cream and sugar together in a medium bowl until the cream begins to thicken. 
  6. Using a serrated knife, cut the shortcakes in half lengthwise. Place the bottom halves on 6 plates and generously spoon the macerated fruit and juices over them. Top with a heaping dollop of the whipped cream. Top with the top halves of the shortcake. 
Recipe from James Beard at Food52.com


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Toronto, I love you.


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This post is dedicated to Toronto.

This post is dedicated to all the amazing food and memorable experiences you can find in the city.

I really don't know where to start. I have a great fondness for Toronto. I've been here for fours years and still feel like there is much to explore.

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I've also been very fortunate to live in one of the best neighbourhoods in the city. When you live at  College and Ossington, or Dundas and Ossington... pretty much anywhere near Ossington you have an entire street to explore. It's filled with the best restaurants in the city, gold mine vintage shops, an abundance of bars and endless coffee shops.

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These are a few of my favourite places in Toronto, all walking distance from my house. I'll start with the closes to my house, because they are impossible to put in any order.

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Lit Espresso Bar is my go to coffee shop when I need to get out of the house and focus. Rich espresso and delicate scones are just a few minutes from my home. I also love their loose leaf teas, which they serve in a beautiful Bodum double wall glass cup.

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What's wonderful about Lit, is that you never feel you've over done your stay, making it a great place for studying. I'm sure they don't want to be known for that, but it's kind of what their coffee shop has turned into. Also, if you're into silent movies (Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, one of my favourites) they have them projected on the back wall of the coffee shop.

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Next on the list is Pizzeria Libretto. Known for the best pizza in Toronto. And it is.

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Of course if you don't like soft, chewy Neapolitan style pizza made with fresh, simple ingredients, baked at 900 degrees in a wood burning oven creating a charred, blistered crust, then this probably isn't your thing.

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But if it is, then you seriously need to go there and try some of the best pizza you can get outside of Italy. And it's not just the pizza that makes this restaurant. All the food there is made with hight quality ingredients, San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy, Fiore di Latte Mozzerella made from fresh milk and local ingredients whenever possible.

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Now after dinner you may be too full to move and decide to head home so you can recline yourself in a position which will allow you to comfortably digest your food... or you may be feelin' so groovy from the meal that you want to stay out a grab a drink elsewhere.

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I suggest the Dakota Tavern. A classic western saloon located in a basement at Dundas and Ossington.

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If you're wondering who hangs out at the Dakota, well, I couldn't pin point one type of crowd for you. What I can tell you, is that everyone is there listening to some of the best live music in Toronto. They have a variety of different bands that come and play. Rock, country, bluegrass and cover bands that can get the entire bar dancing and singing along.

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The great thing about the Dakota is you don't have to wait for the weekend for a good time. Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm they're open for their Bluegrass Brunch where it's an all you can breakfast for $12.  The best times I've been there are during the middle of the week, where I was lucky enough to see Dwayne Gretzky or Hot Rock, both fantastic cover bands. One particular time when Hot Rock (made up of The Beauties, Flash Lightnin' and Samantha Martin) were playing, Ron Sexsmith decided to join them on stage. Those are the moments when I really think, I love this city.

Here's a Wednesday night with Hot Rock. Sorry for the shakiness of the video, I was trying really hard not to dance...



Another bar that brings "I love this city" moments is the Communist Daughter.

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The tiny bar on Dundas doesn't look like much from the outside. In fact, you might even mistake it for a convient store as a great big yellow sign that says Nazaré Snack Bar hangs above the window. The real sign hangs beneath. A small chalkboard, with the words The Communist Daughter written on it. It really is the perfect sign for the humble bar.

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Saturday afternoons from 4-7 is a must attend. On this day, at this time, you will catch Michael Louis Johnson and the Red Rhythm band playing live jazz music in a close and intimate setting. Its best to arrive 15 minutes earlier or you may find yourself standing behind the bar with Michael himself. During these 3 hours, the real world seems to disappear and you're transcended into a time where the only things that really matter are love, music and beer.

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The last place on my list, is the last place I end up on Friday or Saturday night.  Poutini's House of Poutine on Queen Street. It is a must after you've been singing karaoke all night at the Gladstone or dancing up a storm at The Ossington. This place is always a bit of a blur for me. First of all, it's 2 in the morning and I've had a few drinks. Second, the place is always packed at this time and thirdly my memoires come from my pictures, which literally are blurry.

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Don't get me wrong. I've been to Poutini's during the day. I've experienced it in a clear state of mind. And it is just as good. Hand-cut fries, fresh cheese curds from Ontario, topped with an in-house gravy sauce which was made by roasting bones and fresh vegetables for at least 8 hours and then seasoned and thickened to perfection. For the weaker ones, the also provide vegetarian gravy and cheese curds that are vegan/gluten-free/soy-free/nut-free/taste-free (ha! just kidding, I've never tried them).

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These are just a few of my favourite places.

I can only fit so much information in one post.

I hope this inspires you to explore the streets of Toronto, and hopefully, your own neighbourhood too.

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