Tag Archives: comfort food

La Pendulerie, land of clocks and chocolate

18 Jun

On Montreal’s Crescent Street, you drift in and out of worlds in minutes. Traditional Irish pubs jostle with trendy nail bars. Fashion houses rest atop narrow staircases. My most recent discovery is a magical place that transforms the gentle slope north of de Maisonneuve into the Swiss Alps through a disarming combination of chocolate, cuckoo clocks, and flag-clad patio umbrellas.

La Pendulerie Sign

At La Pendulerie, choose from one of 40 varieties of hot chocolate or milkshake, ranging from milk to dark, including flavours such as hazelnut and orange. If you stay awhile, you’ll find yourself sipping your selection bemusedly to the ticking of nearby cuckoo clocks as tiny painted wooden figurines emerge at regular intervals and spin around to choruses of Edelweiss.

Hot Chocolate

On my first visit, I thought it best to start at the mid-point with one of the bittersweet varieties. I’ve since worked my way up to the noir-de-noir, an 84% cocoa concoction in hot chocolate form that witnesses will tell you made me weak in the knees and inappropriately flushed in public. I recently sampled my first milkshake version, wisely opting for mint chocolate, which was served with a rolled wafer cookie.

Milkshakes

Perhaps the most charming aspect of La Pendulerie is that every visitor notices something different, from the imported chocolate confections nestled in the store window to the model cars tucked away in the back of the shop beyond the Edelweiss clocks.

La Pendulerie Store Window

Whatever the weather, I suggest you make your way down to 2080 Crescent Street and indulge in a multi-sensory treat that will make you forget all of your first world problems.

P.S. There are truffles.

Advertisements

A taste for tofu

13 Feb

Though tofu is much less maligned than it was when I first developed an interest in diversifying my protein sources over ten years ago, I still meet people with a real hate-on for my beloved bean curd. The thing is, tofu doesn’t have much flavour at all; it’s more about giving tofu a taste you enjoy than it is about developing a taste for tofu. Tofu haters don’t last long in the face of the delicious dish I’m about to introduce you to.

If you’re shaking your head in dismay and thinking “the texture is the problem”, rest assured: fresh tofu is available in a variety of textures. The most common are soft/silken tofu, which is usually sold in boxes, and firm/cotton tofu, which is usually sold vaccuum-packed (in larger grocery stores) or stored in buckets of water (in smaller/specialty stores). The latter can more easily be eaten with chopsticks and doesn’t jiggle like the former.

Vacuum-packed, cotton-style tofu

Vacuum-packed, cotton-style tofu

It’s the kind of tofu involved in this recipe, and I encourage you to try it out and see what you think. It just may change your mind about tofu forever (you’re welcome).

Faced with this?

Cubed tofu

Cubed tofu

Gather the following 4 ingredients for a marinade…

Marinade ingredients

Marinade ingredients (aka Why I'm a Librarian and Not a Food Stylist)

and transform it into this (see recipe below):

Cooked tofu

Ginger-garlic tofu

The best thing about this tofu dish is its versatility. You can add it to spinach salad for some extra flavour and protein. You can toss it in a stir fry. You can pile on some corn kernels…

Tofu with corn kernels

and a generous helping of mashed potatoes…

Tofu, corn, mashed potatoes

then stick the baking dish back in the oven on broil for a few minutes and have a delicious non-shepherd’s pie.

Non-shepherd's pie

Non-shepherd's pie

Serve with salad for a complete meal!

Eat your greens at every meal

Complete meal

That’s cranberry juice, btw.

You can also serve this tofu straight-up in lieu of the meat in a meat-and-potatoes dinner (move over, tofurkey). ‘Cause eating well is all about options. Without further ado…

Ginger-Garlic Tofu

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 block firm/cotton tofu, cubed

Method:
1) Mix all ingredients except tofu in a baking dish
2) Add the cubed tofu to the marinade and mix to coat evenly
3) Let sit for 15 minutes
4) Cook on 350F-400F for 10-15 minutes, until tofu is browned

Sometimes, in the depths of (a Canadian) winter

12 Feb

Sometimes, in the depths of winter, you get tired and feel lethargic. Food tastes a little off, like it has frostbite. Sometimes, food isn’t the only one with frostbite.

Sometimes, you can’t find fresh fruit anymore that doesn’t come from the Southern hemisphere (damn them!), and you miss the bustle of the local market.

Sometimes, you feel like hibernating, like a bear, in a cave somewhere. Before crawling in, you want to gain 5 pounds a week. You plan to gain that weight expressly through potatoes and bread.

Sometimes, you lose the will to jog, which means you lose the endorphin rush, which means you eat chocolate, and you don’t even like chocolate. What’s up with that?

Sometimes, you wonder why your father and grandfather emigrated from fairer isles to this godforsaken land. No, seriously.

Sometimes, you feel utterly uninspired: you can’t think of a single meal you want to cook, a single thing you want to do when you get home from work, or a single blog post topic. Yo can’t be roused to take photographs, even, unless they are on your phone.

In cases such as this, here is a prescription:

  1. In the morning, take two cups of fortifying coffee, not one.
  2. In the evening, rely on canned soups. In every meal. Even if it means making Easy chicken a la king, an entirely wonderful recipe (use peas instead of pepper, and multi-grain bread instead of rice or pastry) instead of the real thing.
  3. Drench things in warming red wine, even if said thing is out-of-season, overpriced asparagus. Because sometimes you just need exorbitantly-priced vegetables steeped in red wine, garlic, and butter in the depths of a Canadian winter.
  4. Rinse. Repeat. Things will get better.

My Obsession with Aux Vivres’ Dragon Bowl Sauce

19 Oct

by Marsha Taichman

If you know me, and we eat together at a restaurant  more than once, we will probably go to
Aux Vivres (4631 St. Laurent Boulevard in Montreal) if I have my way. This is the sad truth for my friends (all three of them). As far as I am concerned, everything there is tasty and nothing hurts my stomach because there is no dairy to be found anywhere, and I am lactose- intolerant. The restaurant/cafe serves fresh and often organic foods and is a proudly vegan institution. The food is so delicious there is no need to apologize for its meatless-ness or mimic meat and dairy, but they do have a lot of foods that feature creams made from tofu or nuts, and tempeh bacon and tofu scrambles are popular items on their weekend brunch menu. My boyfriend and favourite dining companion, Henry, pictured below, always gets the BLT on chapatti bread, which is composed of lettuce, tomato and smoked coconut with a white spread that is reminiscent of good old mayonnaise.

Henry

Henry and his BLT on chapatti bread

The sandwich is smoky, salty deliciousness. Every week there are specials that showcase seasonal items, and recently they had a beet latke plate and sweet potato burritos.

I order the same thing every time I go to Aux Vivres, which is the Dragon Bowl. Just typing “the same thing every time” makes me feel a little, how do you say, boring. In my defense, I have ordered other dishes there, thoroughly enjoyed them, and then pined for the Dragon Bowl all the way home. It is a bowl of organic brown rice topped with piles of fresh vegetables: spiraled beets, shredded carrots, chopped lettuce, two kinds of sprouts, and daikon radish. This mound of goodness is sprinkled with gomashio (unhulled black and white sesame seeds and salt) and is served with Dragon Bowl sauce, which is liquid gold.

dragon bowl

dragon bowl

I eat the vegetables and rice in the Dragon Bowl because they are a vehicle for said sauce. You can purchase it bottled at Aux Vivres, but then you have to cut up all the vegetables and cook the rice and I figure I will never be able to do it as well as they do (I have yet to invest in a mandolin for that perfectly thin daikon slicing), so I am happy to pay about ten dollars to feel like someone is looking after me for an hour or so.

Recently, my friend Lorie pointed me to a recipe for Dragon Bowl sauce written by the talented jae steele, who used to make Aux Vivres’ desserts. Her sauce calls for:

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
2 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
2 tbsp. filtered water
1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic

Blend all ingredients with a hand blender, or in a blender or food processor. Makes enough sauce for 3 Dragon Bowls. Store any leftovers in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to 1 week.

This version is good, but not as good as the one I long for when it’s been a while since my last fix. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I used regular soy sauce rather than tamari soy sauce, and my olive oil might be a little off. Next time I will follow the recipe and maybe add a bit less than 2 tbsp. filtered water. But try it! Or just go to Aux Vivres and have a Dragon Bowl. You won’t be sorry. At least, I never am.

Check out Marsha’s bio on the Contributors page.

Happy Thanksgiving

10 Oct

We here at Digestive Librarians’ Digest are grateful for family, friends, FOOD and you, dear readers.

Thank you for sharing many meals with us through our first three months … and here’s to many more!

Happy harvest!

A is for autumn, A is for apple

25 Sep
(and X is for waXing philosophical)

The hordes are back at school, the suits are out in full force downtown, and the air is crisp – summer, alas, is waning.

Autumn is my favourite season. Can you smell it? It smells like a fresh start, a clear head, a sweater, a pile of leaves, a freshly-stoked fireplace. It tastes like turkey, fresh cranberries, gourds of various shapes and sizes, and apples.

Always, apples.

One of the (many) strange (and in this case, lovely) things about being the child of an Anglican minister (well, of two Anglican ministers, but let’s just let that go for now, ok? Ok…) is that you get to discover new communities every time your parental unit is moved to a new parish. Thus we moved from the wilds of Laval (it was the wilds back then, sort of) to walks along the riverfront in Verdun, to fireworks in St Lambert, to the rolling hills of the Montérégie.

We lived in Otterburn Park, nestled at the foot of Mont St. Hilaire (a mountain I climbed several times during our three years there). Were you to jump in a car and drive along Chemin de la Montagne, hugging Mont St. Hilaire’s south peak (as we did every Sunday), you would reach Rougemont, one of three points in my mother’s parish, and the heart of Quebec’s apple industry.

No place ever spoke to me like Rougemont did. Granted, the small town had all the right Alex ingredients: a deserted, romantic graveyard, a picturesque, tiny church, a host of eccentric characters, and (let’s be honest here) horses. It also, of course, had orchards: orchards as far as the eye could see, leading up in pin-straight rows or haphazard zigzags to the Rougemont mountain itself. I learned a great deal about farming in those years: I saw early mornings and late nights, biting frost and blighting sun. I, less so than my mother but still enough to make an impression, was invited into the old farmhouses of Anglophone rural Quebec: butter churners and rocking chairs, wooden stools and hiking boots. I ate fresh corn on the cob, I bore witness to the most magnificent Thanksgiving altar displays; singing the hymn “Come Ye Thankful People Come” never had such humble significance. I also got my first shock from an electric fence, but never mind that now.

I picked apples: up ladders and down. I ate apples: fresh apples, cooked apples, apple crisp, apple pie. I grew to love and respect the trees and their fruit; I could identify dozens of types of apples by smell and taste.

I am lucky enough to still have a Rougemont farmer in my life; one of the lesser blessings is the bags of apples he brings me every autumn. I’ve moved from Otterburn, to Bedford, then Pointe Claire, and Montreal (2 apartments; 1 condo), and now Ottawa; the bags follow. There are few more happy phrases uttered than, “Alexandra, I’ve got some Cortlands for you!” Cortlands remain my favourites: their tart, crisp, clear white insides, and the way their red skins bleed a little when you cut them, are a constant marvel (wait, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? Have I been watching too many criminal dramas?). My mother favours Paula Reds; my husband likes Spy apples (which I turn my nose up as an Ontario apple). I hate nothing more than the wax they put on apples to give them a shine in the grocery store: those things look to me like the fruit equivalent of someone with a fake tan: why take a good thing to extremes? I am also a local cider fiend: the best, in my book, is Covey Hill’s own Mystique. An excellent article about the cider route in Quebec is here, featuring Rougemont’s most well-known cider-making resident, Michel Jodoin.

In a life somewhat geographically schizophrenic, nothing takes me back to lazy teenage days in the country quite like a fresh bag of apples, tied tight and stowed in the car, promises to future autumn afternoons.

Some apple factoids to crunch on:

  • Apple saplings came over to the New World with Champlain
  • That cad, Sir George Simpson, turned up on the shores of the most westerly HBC fort with apple seeds tucked into his vest pocket
  • McIntosh apples are as Canadian as, well, I’ll let you fill that blank in…: Every McIntosh can trace itself back to one discovered in 1811 by John McIntosh in Dundas County, Ontario.
  • Did you know that Canadian researchers analysed eight popular types of apples and found Red Delicious, Northern Spy and Ida Red had the most antioxidants? Guess I should play nice, then.
  • Apples should be stored in a cool, dark, slightly moist place: I put mine in the crisper drawer of the fridge, with a dark, wet tea towel completely covering them (yes, I chortle when I tuck them back in).

My favourite apple crisp recipe (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be A Domestic Goddess  Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking and The Yoga Cookbook: Vegetarian Food for Body and Mind, by the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres):

Filling ingredients:

  • 4 large apples, sliced into eighths, skin on
  • 25 g raisins
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Topping ingredients:

  • 60 g chopped walnuts
  • 2 1/2 cups granola (I swear by this stuff)
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 2/3 cups honey and/or maple syrup (I like to mix both)

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Mix the filling ingredients together and transfer into an 8-inch square baking dish. Combine flour with butter, then honey and/or syrup and mix well. Stir the liquid mixture into the granola. Spoon the topping over the filling. Bake for 45 minutes.

Breakfast for dinner with ice cream for dessert

13 Sep

In my experience, grad school introduces heightened drama into the least suspecting of adult lives. For those of you pursuing an MLIS or other graduate degree, I offer the following antidote: breakfast for dinner with ice cream for dessert. Here is how it’s done.

First, assemble friends. In my time of need this summer, I was lucky to have two fabulous fellow librarians-in-training at the ready to lend a hand (and share the spoils) in this important mission.

Next, set the table. Despite being students on a tight budget, we had some lovely placemats at our disposal, plus a stand-out bowl from Anthropologie, which we used to hold our grapes. Note how these contribute to the final spread:

Crepes, fruit, ice cream

On to the breakfast, crêpes or pancakes being my preferred choice. If you’re without a favourite recipe, I recommend my grand-maman’s crêpes or Williams-Sonoma’s Blueberry-Buttermilk Pancakes. Whip them up and keep them warm while you tackle the ice cream, or prepare both in tandem with your pals.

Crepes cooking
In order to create a homemade version of the treat you thought you simply loved but are about to discover you can’t live without, I suggest that you beg for, borrow, or buy an ice cream maker. You’ll need to freeze it for a full 24 hours before pouring the combined ingredients into it. Sound high-maintenance? Trust me, it’s worth it. Beyond the unparalleled taste of homemade ice cream, there’s the thrilling process of watching liquid ingredients slowly transform into this beloved standby of comfort foods before your very eyes thanks to the freezing and mixing mechanisms of the maker.

Here’s a breakdown, with visuals:

1) Prepare the fruit and other ingredients (we relied on a simple recipe for Strawberry Peach Ice Cream that came with the mixer, using both puréed and chopped fruit for added flavour and texture)

Preparation of ice cream ingredients

2) Pour the combined ingredients into the frozen ice cream maker

Pouring the ice cream mix into the mixer

3) Mix the ice cream, slowly and gradually (oh, the suspense!)

4) Monitor the texture, which will indicate when the ice cream is ready to be served

Ice cream frozen to perfection

Then comes the best part…

Eat.

Crepes

Observe how goodness wipes badness away.

Eat some more.

Ice cream

Count your blessings.

Repeat.

♥ ♥ ♥

With special thanks to Aliya Dalfen and Judith Logan