Saturday, July 31, 2010

A summer tart, in 140 characters or less...

tarte d'été fig. a: Michelle's summer tart

The other day, a reporter called me from La Presse asking for a Twitter-friendly recipe for a story on chefs who tweet. Luckily, I had just made this amazing little tart for some friends the night before and was more than ready for the challenge.

This tart is so simple, it hardly took 140 characters to write the recipe (of course, I had to leave out the instructions for the tart crust, and I also named it "tarte d'été," instead of "tarte aux framboises," in the interest of space). Light, elegant, lovely, this is a tart that really lets the raspberries shine. Invite some friends over and share it with a sparkling wine.

tarte d’été

un fond de tarte 6" cuit
fouetter 200g fromage blanc, 250g crème, sucre vanillé au gout
placer des framboises fraîches dessus

summer tart

1 6" tart crust, cooked
whip 200g quark cheese, 250g cream, vanilla sugar to taste
place raspberries on top

or, if tweets just aren't your thing, or you're not sure what recipe to use for the tart crust,

summer tart


125g flour
75g icing sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
100g butter, soft
1/2 egg white

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingers until it resembles a fine meal. Add egg white and mix to combine. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.

Roll out on a floured surface to 1/8" thick. Place in 6" tart pan and carefully tamp down the sides. Trim off excess crust and chill 30 minutes. Place a layer of tin foil on the crust and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake at 375º F for 10 minutes, remove foil and weights and bake 5-10 minutes more, until the crust is fully baked and quite golden. Let cool.


200g quark
250g cream
vanilla sugar to taste
fresh raspberries

Whip the cheese, cream and vanilla sugar to medium peaks and fill the cooled tart crust. Place the raspberries on top in a concentric pattern, or pell-mell, if that's more your style, and chill at least 30 minutes. Serve.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Turning Japanese

laser suzuki fig. a: Laser Suzuki!

It may have had something to do with the Laser Suzuki t-shirt that a friend of mine got me for my birthday last year, somewhat inexplicably. I've definitely been wearing it a fair bit recently, much to the puzzlement of those who know me well and who can't understand the message.* Or maybe it was all those travel tales from Japan that we've been hearing over the last several months from all those friends who've insisted, "You really must go! It's not as expensive as you think!" Then again, it may also have been the effects of that full-on Kazu fever that we developed this spring and that has yet to relent in spite of weekly (bi-weekly?) visits. All I know is that, for a while there, our AEB test kitchen was all about the Japanese.

harumi 1 fig. b: Harumi!

And when we felt like we need a little help with this process, our newest favorite friend, Harumi, was there to guide the way. I was none the wiser until quite recently, but Harumi Kurihara is something of a sensation in Japan. A former housewife turned "lifestyle authority," Harumi has apparently gone platinum many times over with her assortment of cookbooks, interior design books, lifestyle magazines, etc. But all of that is just hearsay.

All we really know is that Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese Food for Family & Friends, her follow-up to her award-winning Harumi's Japanese Cooking (her first book in English), is a smash hit in our household. Everyday Harumi features some 70 homestyle Japanese recipes and a whole lot of gorgeous photography, and, as the title suggests, this is a book that focuses on recipes that are unfussy and that one might make on an everyday basis, many of which call for a minimum of ingredients. Best of all, they've all been winners so far,

harumi 3 fig. c: three toppings!

from the Three Toppings Rice, which is a kind of "mother & child"/"chicken & egg" number,

harumi 4 fig. d: green beans!

to her deliciously simple, simply delicious Green Beans with a Sesame Dressing (the same ones she's stirring in the photograph that graces the cover),

harumi 2 fig. e: eggplant!

to her Eggplant in Spicy Sauce--another ultra-straightforward, ultra-satisfying gem.

Michelle's been in heaven throughout this entire recent foray into all things Japanese, but for some reason she found the Eggplant in Spicy Sauce to be particularly brilliant, so that's the recipe I've decided to highlight.

Eggplant in Spicy Sauce

1 lb 3 oz eggplant (either Japanese, or baby Italian)
1/3 cup light soy sauce, such as usukuchi
1/3 cup mirin
2 1/2 tbsp superfine sugar (not to be confused with icing/confectioners' sugar)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
sunflower, canola, or vegetable oil for deep-frying
2-3 tbsp finely minced leeks or scallions
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1 tsp finely minced ginger
1-2 red chilies, seeded and finely sliced
shredded leek for garnish

Trim the eggplants and, using a vegetable peeler, make some stripes in its skin. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch thick disks and then quarter them. Place the chopped eggplant in a bowl of cold water, soak for 10-15 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and rice vinegar to make the sauce. Stir well and set aside.

In a skillet, heat enough oil to cover the eggplant. When the oil reaches 340º F, add the eggplant pieces, and deep-fry until the pieces are golden all over and buttery soft in the middle. Remove the eggplant pieces from the skillet with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat process as necessary. You should be able to deep-fry all the eggplant in no more than 2-3 batches. The eggplant pieces cook quite rapidly--3-4 minutes, usually--so even 3 batches of deep-frying won't take long.

Transfer the eggplant pieces to a bowl, add the sauce, then the minced leek or scallion, garlic, ginger, and chili to combine.

Serve with some shredded leek on top, or some finely chopped scallions.

[recipe from Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara]

One night we had a really lovely simple meal that consisted of the Eggplant in Spicy Sauce, the Green Beans with a Sesame Dressing, steamed short-grain rice, and an assortment of simple Asian pickles,

simple radish pickles fig. f: pickled radishes!

pickled beets fig. g: pickled beets!

including pickled cucumbers, pickled radishes, and pickled beets.

On special occasions, we've been combining recipes from Everyday Harumi with some of the more Japanese or Japanese-inspired recipes from David Chang's Momofuku cookbook.

momofuku tofu salad fig. h: Asian cherry tomato salad!

One day we even made his wonderful Cherry Tomato Salad with Silken Tofu & Shiso,

cherry tomatoes 1 fig. i: cherry tomatoes!

which required us to score the best cherry tomatoes we could find,

cherry tomatoes 2 fig. j: naked cherry tomatoes!

before blanching and peeling some of them (others were left uncooked and fully clothed).


shiso leaves fig. k: shiso leaves!

It also required us to hit up our friendly, neighborhood sushi restaurant (one of the city's very best) for some real, honest-to-goodness Japanese shiso leaves, which was kind of like hitting up your neighbor for a cup of sugar or a stick of butter or something, only way more magical.


* I mean I'm down with David Suzuki, the David Suzuki Foundation, and The Nature of Things, but suddenly I'm reminded of a story I once heard about the chair of an anthropology department at a prestigious Canadian university. The chair in question was a diminutive Japanese man who'd cultivated a convincing Ho Chi Minh mustache and beard combo. His office was adorned with a single, solitary bit of decoration--a massive poster of Karl Marx. The Ho Chi Minh look + the Karl Marx poster seemed to suggest that this gentleman was a card-carrying Marxist--most who visited him in his office drew what appeared to be the logical conclusion. In fact, appearances were deceiving. He just liked the way the poster looked.**

** Presumably, he also just liked the way that Ho Chi Minh mustache and beard combo looked.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Guys & Doll

Burger lovers,

As you may have heard, there's a new outfit in town, and this time it's one of America's premium chains. Even with the glut of burger joints we've got at present--high, low, and in between--someone has decided that Montreal is ready for a nouveau concept, a nouveau système. But whose? White Castle? Krystal? In-n-Out? Nope, Arlington, Virginia's very own 5 Guys Burgers and Fries, the chain that reputedly holds the distinction of being President Obama's favourite burger (or, at least, one of them).

Now, 5 Guys have yet to actually make it to the island of Montreal, but they have set up shop in the area, and are poised for a glorious entrance into Montreal proper. Their first regional franchise--the first in Eastern Canada--is in Vaudreuil, just minutes from both the 20 and the 40 to the west of the island. But apparently 5 Guys are planning to go toe-to-toe with the big boys and open a location in Old Montreal sometime in the very near future.

AEB received an invitation to sample the 5 Guys experience firsthand, so that's exactly what we did. We assembled a seasoned team of burger lovers--3 guys and 1 doll--and we took the mobile unit out to Vaudreuil to check out 5 Guys.


The first thing you notice is the red check interior.

five guys spuds fig. a: 5 Guys spuds

The next thing you notice are the matching stacks of Idaho spuds, just waiting to be transformed into 5 Guys famous fries.

five guys goobers fig. b: 5 Guys goobers

After that, you notice the complimentary goobers, which are there to keep you occupied while you wait for your freshly prepared 5 Guys burger to be assembled.

5 Guys burgers fall into two categories: double-pattied hamburgers, cheeseburgers, bacon burgers, and bacon cheeseburgers, and single-pattied little hamburgers, little cheeseburgers, little bacon burgers, and little bacon cheeseburgers. It's a little confusing, I know, but that's how 5 Guys rolls--their standard burger consists of two hefty patties. Regular toppings include mayo, ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, grilled onions, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled mushrooms--so an "all-dressed" would consist of all of the above. Specialty toppings include jalapeño peppers, A-1 sauce, BBQ sauce, and hot sauce. All toppings--both regular and specialty--are free.

Fries come in two varieties: regular and Cajun.

The preferred beverage is Coca-Cola.

Place your order and you help set an entire team of food service professionals into a frenzy of activity. Burgers are fried and assembled in the open, behind a glass partition, and the impression that's given is of an organization whose execution is almost military-like, with a general keeping the grunts in precise order.

5 Guys patties are sizable, and their fries also take a little bit longer than your usual fast food fare, so there's a bit of a wait between ordering and receiving, and you actually have to wait until your number is called, but you've got the goobers to keep you company and this is still definitely fast food.

five guys burger fig. c: 5 Guys bacon cheeseburger

And the burger? With two hefty patties, and a whole lot of toppings, the standard 5 Guys burger has a considerable amount of girth to it. I'd even venture to call it a whopper. It's tasty, too. The next time I'd lay off of the cheese (which didn't appear to be Kraft singles, unfortunately) and just go with a bacon burger, and I found my grilled onions a little anemic (not caramelized the way I like them), and most of us agreed that the bun should have had some more substance to it, but this was definitely not your standard chain burger (which is one of the reasons it's not priced like one). 5 Guys prides itself on its freshness, and on that count, and others, they delivered.

The fries? Neither Michelle nor I were crazy about their Cajun spices, but the fries themselves were quality. Not quite like Al's, at their finest, but a cut above your average chain fries.

Will 5 Guys make it in the Montreal market? They might catch a little flak from the Language Police, but otherwise I have a feeling they're going to do just fine.

Will I join Obama and declare 5 Guys my #1 burger? All I'm going to say is that President Obama has obviously never had an AEB burger.

5 Guys Burgers and Fries, 54 Boul. de la Cité des Jeunes, Vaudreuil-Dorion, QC, (450) 510-0710


PS--We weren't the only ones who were curious. Check out a full report on 5 Guys at the new & improved Montreal Burger Report.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My dinner with Bruce, rev. ed.

fig. a: now THAT'S what I call a business card

Some offers you just can’t pass up. And this was definitely one of them.

Get this: The phone rings. You pick it up and it’s your good friend M. He says to you, “Have I got an invitation for you.” And then he proposes the following list of activities:

1. attend the premiere of Gallants, a Hong Kong chop-socky flick that’s playing at the 2010 edition of Montreal’s Fantasia festival (!)
2. bask in the glow of kung-fu great Bruce Leung, who not only stars in the film, but will be in attendance to introduce the film and address his legions of fans (!!)
3. then, finally, attend a banquet in Leung’s honour at La Maison Kam Fung (!!!), a popular Chinatown cantonese restaurant and dim sum house


An hour and a half later, there we were, sitting in Concordia University’s Hall Theatre, listening to Bruce Leung--the one and only Bruce Leung--introduce Gallants to a rabid audience.

We couldn’t quite figure out why someone had decided to give this highly entertaining and tender-hearted martial arts film the awkward English title Gallants instead of countless other more appropriate and more alluring titles, but there’s a reason the film was a co-winner of an Audience Award at this year’s New York Asian Film Festival--the film’s plenty appealing, and Bruce Leung, as “Tiger,” and Teddy Robin, as “Master Law,” steal the show.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly call Gallants a “food film,” but much of the action revolves around a traditional Cantonese teahouse--its bamboo steamers constantly steaming away--and a preserved duck does play a central role.

Anyway, after the film, Bruce came back out and charmed the audience all over again, and if that wasn’t enough, he was also awarded a Kung Fu Star Award for his contribution to martial arts filmmaking and Asian filmmaking more generally.

By 9:30 we’d made our way to a special banquet room at La Maison Kam Fung, where there were four tables set up, with seating for about 40. M. and I chose two seats entirely arbitrarily at Table #2, and the next thing I knew Bruce Leung himself was sitting next to me (!!!!). I’m sure he could have found himself a dining mate with a knowledge of Hong Kong’s long history of martial arts filmmaking that was more encyclopedic, but Bruce and I hit it off famously, and what ensued was a two-hour lesson in grace and wisdom, peppered with some impressive feats of martial arts prowess.

The food was a nearly endless banquet of Cantonese and Cantonese-Canadian classics (salt chicken, batter-fried lobster, cashew shrimp, etc.), and, served by the hands of a kung-fu legend, it tasted even better than usual. But, more than anything, what I’ll remember is that sly smile, those impressive callouses,* and his knack for making his translator blush with an off-color joke. Talk about a master...

My most cherished souvenir? Bruce's wicked business card, which you can see pictured above.


Fantasia 2010 continues through July 28, and in addition to the usual entertaining assortment of fantasy, gore, sex, and ultraviolence, this year’s line-up features a couple honest-to-goodness food films. And I’m not talking about the flesh-eating variety, either.

Tonight, July the 13th, you get your one and only opportunity to check out Baek Dong-hoon's Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle, a South Korean battle-of-the-sexes/food flick that’s sure to make you want to get your galbi and banchan on. And on July the 14th and July the 16th you’ll get a chance to check out yet another South Korean food film, Hong Ji-young’s The Naked Kitchen, a film that, as the title suggests, is more “sex” than “battle-of-the-sexes.” Here, “poetic” and “breathtakingly beautiful” shots of the elaborate rituals that make up the preparing and serving of food “serve as the backdrop to a steamy love triangle,” according to Robert Guillemette.

The Housemaid fig. b: look psycho? she is!

Finally, on July 24th, late in the afternoon, you get your final chance to see Kim Ki-young's truly mind-altering The Housemaid. This is one hell of a family melodrama--literally. And it features some of the wickedest plot twists in the history of film. Plus, no less an authority than Martin Scorsese had the following to say about the film: "...The Housemaid is one of the true classics of South Korean cinema, and when I finally had the opportunity to see the picture, I was startled. That this intensely, even passionately claustrophobic film is known only to the most devoted film lovers in the west is one of the great accidents of film history." What, exactly, are we talking about? Take one part Sirkian family melodrama, add one part Polanski's Repulsion, and a touch of Jean Genet's The Maids, set it in South Korea, at the very beginning of the post-Korean War economic miracle, and voilà. Yes, but is it a food film? Well, not exactly, but food does figure prominently--most of it poisoned.

Le Grand Chef: Kimchi Battle, July 13, 19:20, Hall Theatre, Concordia University (1455 de Maisonneuve Boul. W.)

The Naked Kitchen, July 14, 18:30, la Cinémathèque québécoise (335 de Maisonneuve Boul. E.), and July 16, 14:45, Salle de Sève, Concordia University (1455 de Maisonneuve Boul. W.)

The Housemaid, July 24, 17:10, J.A. De Seve Theater, Concordia University (1400 de Maisonneuve Boul. W.)

And for a complete rundown of this year’s Fantasia festival, check out their website.


* Bruce is in his 60s now. He began practicing martial arts well over 50 years ago, and started out as a stuntman in martial arts films not long after that. Not surprisingly, his knuckles are hugely calloused.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Evening Danish

fig. a: Noma's pickled vegetables and smoked bone marrow*

Not just a great New York Times article on René Redzepi and the New Nordic Cuisine of Noma, but one whose ability to transport you to the Danish countryside (where Redzepi and his staff forage for Noma's exotic ingredients) brought a breath of fresh Nordic air into our sweltering AEB headquarters.

Forecast for July 7, 2010:
Montreal: sunny & 34º C / 93º F
Copenhagen: sunny & 23º C / 73º F

Beat the heat.

Sorry, no recipes, but there is an anatomical rendering of Redzepi's shrimp with sea urchin powder, a dish that comes complete with beach mustard, goosefoot leaves, sea coriander, wildflowers, and a few decorative stones.


* photograph by Eric Refner for the New York Times

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Syrupy Sweet

fig. a: p'tit livre

It may be a little late for sugaring-off (after all, Canada Day is already upon us), but Anne Fortin's Cuisiner avec le Sirop D'Érable du Québec is hot off the presses.

It's a handsome book--well photographed and well designed--and recipes cover everything from sides & mains, to desserts & drinks. You get all kinds of down-home classics, like Baked Beans, Maple-Glazed Ham, and Pouding Chômeur, but Fortin has wisely decided to augment her own recipes, and the ones she's collected from friends, with recipes from a number of talented local chefs and food personalities. So not only do you get a recipe for Chicken with Spices and Maple Syrup from Tapeo's Marie-Fleur St-Pierre, but you also get a recipe for Crispy Sweetbreads with Maple and Absinthe Sweet & Sour Sauce from Ethné and Philippe de Vienne of Épices de Cru/Olives et Épices/La Dépense. Ever wondered how the good folks at Havre aux Glaces make their fantastic Maple Caramel Brûlé Ice Cream? That recipe is in here too.

And if all that wasn't enough, you get two recipes from Michelle (!). One for her positively sinful maple-caramel tartinade, and the other for her invigorating Gin Tonic.

fig. b: gros gin

The idea here was to humorously riff on both the legendary tonic properties of maple water and those New-Agey maple-lemon-cayenne pepper cleanses that people insist on inflicting on themselves, while simultaneously concocting a cocktail (a reasonably strong one) that's crisp and undeniably refreshing.

Michelle created her Gin Tonic as a spring cocktail that would complement Sugaring-Off Season and help with the transition from winter to summer. It also makes for a pretty fine summer cocktail, one that would be perfect for a Canada Day apéro, for instance.

Gin Tonic

1 1/2 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz medium grade Quebec maple syrup*
ice cubes
seltzer water or club soda
2 small pinches espelette pepper
slice of lemon

Mix first three ingredients in a highball glass. Add ice cubes and tonic water to taste. Stir in espelette pepper. Garnish with a slice of lemon. Serve.

Anne Fortin's Cuisiner avec le Sirop D'Érable du Québec is available in French and English (as Cooking with Québec Maple Syrup) at fine bookstores and online book retailers everywhere. It's co-published by Jean-Talon Market's Librairie Gourmande, so if you're visiting the market, stop in and give it a gander.


* Any high-quality maple syrup will do, of course, but Quebec's is pretty choice.