Month: January 2013

All things Italian on a snowy weekend in Montreal

I normally view grocery shopping on a weekend as a result of poor planning, and do it reluctantly. What a surprise it was last Saturday  to make 2 new discoveries. Montreal is not known for its richness of things Italian. It pales in comparison to Toronto and NYC, but now there is hope!

First, after doing my scurvy-fighting order at Chez Louis, I stopped into Nicola Travaglini, a new fine food shop, complete with a few tables to enjoy the yumminess that was being cooked up in the back.   They had a whole roast pig on the counter (yum for some, cover-your-eyes for others) and possibly the best breadsticks I have ever eaten. Sorry, there are no photos of those – I devoured them before I snapped a pic.

Doesn't it smell great?

Doesn’t it smell great?

On my way home, inspired by my discovery, I thought to go to my favourite cheese shop, Yannick.  On the way, I passed by a new café, grocery and bistro. I had to stop and check it out.  Dispensa is a new gem on Bernard, conveniently and so Montreal-like next to Cheskie’s kosher bakery (their babka deserves a post).  Dispensa is the new project from one of the brothers who opened the Italian Pantry on Monkland Ave.  It is tiny, looks great, and is on my must-try list.

Getting home and unpacking my bags I realized I had an Italian feast on my hands…delicious cheese, breadsticks, and my favourite-hard-no-impossible-to-find vegetable, puntarelle.  It is a veggie that is loved in Rome, and tastes like celery IF celery tasted good.  Fresh, crunchy, and delish.

I tried growing puntarelle last year, and couldn’t figure it out…apparently, after the bulbs (much like fennel) are picked, they are left indoors in the dark so shoots are “forced”. Those are the yummy parts.  Hopefully someone reading this can tell me what to do once I have harvested the bulbs.  The leaves are bitter, but tasty if blanched and sautéed with garlic and a squirt of lemon.

untrimmed puntarelle

untrimmed puntarelle

Outer leaves removed, shoots exposed.

Outer leaves removed, shoots exposed.

1 head puntarelle

1 clove garlic

2 anchovy fillets

juice of 1 lemon

olive oil

A pinch of chili pepper and/or black pepper

1. Remove the outer leaves of the puntarelle. Set aside to blanch and sauté if desired. Slice the inner shoots, wash well and place in a bowl of iced water until required.
2. Pound the garlic with a pinch of salt in a mortar. Add the anchovies, lemon juice and enough oil to give a pouring consistency and keep grinding until the anchovies have broken up.
3. Season to taste with pepper(s).4. Drain the puntarelle, place in a serving bowl and pour the dressing over. Serve at once.
Puntarelle, sold ready for salad in Italy. I wish.

Puntarelle, sold ready for salad in Italy. I wish.

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SO WRONG. But so good…..

I have done it. I have fallen of the cliff of reason.  Folks, I have discovered something that may change the way you look at me……Mars Bar Rice Krispie Squares. I found a few recipes online, tweaked them, and…..here goes…. Enjoy. They take about 12 seconds to make. and 1.3 seconds to disappear.

mars bar rice kirispie squares

mars bar rice kirispie squares

4 regular-size Mars bars
1/8 cup butter
2-3 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup  chocolate chips or chopped chocolate for topping if you like.

Melt butter and Mars bars over med-low heat in a large saucepan until smooth.

Remove from heat; stir in 2 cups Rice Krispies cereal. Add more if you want to – you will be able to tell by the texture.

Press into a greased 8×8 pan – if you use an aluminum foil pan they will just pop out.

If  topping them, cover with chocolate chips, and place under broiler for 30 seconds Remove from oven and spread chocolate evenly over squares.

Store in fridge.

Cut into squares, and serve.

Promise you don’t think less of me.

Rye-ing in the New Year

My bread has been bettered. By a lot!

I have just consumed the better part of a loaf of bread. With butter. And it was worth it. A good friend introduced me to her good friends about a year ago.  They now live in Vancouver, and own Bigsby’s Bakehouse. We liked each other immediately, and launched into foodtalk. And breadtalk. I finally made it to the bakery this week.  We passed by on our way to the airport, stocked with sandwiches, bread, brownies and cinnamon buns for the long trip home. The sandwiches and brownies were devoured in a minute. Smoked turkey skin, tomatoes and pea shoots on dark rye….mmmmm.  Tuna with olives, pickles amd cukes on delicious baguette….messy and yummy. Perfect brownies. Just perfect. We walked into the house and shared a bread. This morning we polished off the seriously cinnamony buns, and the final bread. Ok, i feel a LITTLE full. But determined to bake bread like that. Moist. Chewy. Deeply flavourful. With great appreciation to our friends at Bigsby Bakehouse, here goes, with a few adjustments:
For 2 loaves, using the technique and baking instructions from Tartine (refer to my older posts)
200g starter (levain)
600g Unbleached four
400g Dark Rye Flour ( I used pumpernickel)
700g water ( I actually added a bit more when I folded it the first time because it seemed a bit tough)
20g of sea salt
70g molasses
1 tsp cocoa powder
A small handful of caraway seeds if desired.
How it looks when first mixed

How it looks when first mixed

The dough is sticky and never gets as silky as regular wheat doughs.  Dark rye is not a glutinous flour. The “folds” are not as easy as the country bread, but it works.
After a few hours....

After a few hours….

Bigsby’s lets the final rise (after shaping) go for 18-24 hours in the fridge. That makes it really easy.
YUM.  My first loaf is out of the oven….here comes the butter.

Rye Bread #1

Rye Bread #1