lundi 28 janvier 2008


My obsession with kitchen gadgets can be summed up with the gesture of a friend on my 1st trip to Provence. She bought me a postcard from a little card shop in Avignon that pictured all kinds of kitchen gadgets because it reminded her of my Paris kitchen.

Some of my very favourite kitchen gadgets and the places I bought them are:

The fine wood rasp I purchased from Lee Valley Tools in Ottawa, Canada more than 10 years ago.
Lee Valley is candy land for woodworkers and gardeners but this small woodworking tool had caught the attention of chefs. Lee Valley carries more kitchen equipment these days - not too surprising as women have been raiding the workshop for years and converting tools to kitchen uses. The micro rasp is pure tool – stainless steel with tiny sharp blades and no handle. It is perfect for zesting citrus fruit while leaving the white pith behind. It makes short work of grating ginger, garlic, parmesan cheese and chocolate. More expensive kitchen store versions of these started to appear a few years ago with practical shapes and handles but I have stayed with the original.
Another favourite, the Taylor Instant read thermometer to check the temperature of cooked meats also came from Lee Valley Tools.

My “chalumeau” or small kitchen blow torch to caramelize brown sugar toppings for Crème caramel was purchased from Mora in the Les Halles area of Paris.
Mora is a store for professional chefs and carries just about everything a cook could want. Other useful gadgets that I have purchased from this store include a palate knife and off-set palate knife, putty knife (large wide spatula), and large tweezers for removing fish bones.

On my wanderings around the Saar region of Germany, I happened upon the Silit warehouse store in Mettlach. This is the place for beautifully styled and useful gadgets in addition to carrying a large selection of pots and pans. Silicone pot holders, tomato peeler, pastry brush, pasta tester, pasta measure, and tea infuser are just a few of the new gadgets that I have purchased lately.

This week’s recipe is the perfect dish for winter – hearty but full of Mediterranean flavours that will let you escape to sunny Greece.

Serves 6

1 large eggplant, thinly sliced
Coarse cooking salt
Olive oil, for brushing over vegetables
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
45 mL (3 Tbsp) grated Parmesan cheese

15 mL (1 Tbsp) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 kg (2 lbs) minced lamb
60 mL (1/4 cup) fresh parsley, chopped
425 g (13 oz) can crushed tomatoes
30 mL (2 Tbsp) tomato paste
125 mL (1/2 cup) red wine
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) dried oregano leaves
1 mL (1/4 tsp) ground cinnamon

30g (2 Tbsp) butter
80 mL (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
500mL (2 cups) milk
125 mL (1/2 cup) cream
1 mL (1/4 tsp) freshly ground nutmeg
125 mL (1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten

Sprinkle eggplant with salt, let stand for 30 minutes, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Grill eggplant and potato slices (or heat oil in a large frying pan, cook potatoes and eggplant in batches until tender. Drain on paper towels.)
Prepare the meat sauce: Heat oil in large frying pan; add onion and garlic, cook, stirring, until onion is soft. Add minced lamb; cook stirring, until well browned. Stir in parsley, undrained crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, oregano and cinnamon; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until liquid has evaporated.
Lightly grease 2 L (8 cup) ovenproof dish. Layer half the eggplant in dish, sprinkle with 1/3 of Parmesan cheese and spoon over ½ the meat sauce. Add potatoes in a layer; sprinkle with another 1/3 of Parmesan cheese, then spoon over remaining meat sauce, finish with a layer of eggplant.
Prepare the cheese sauce: Melt butter in saucepan, stir in flour; cook, stirring, for 1 min. Gradually stir in milk, cream and nutmeg; stir constantly over heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes; stir in Parmesan cheese and egg.
Pour sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 180°C (350°F) oven for 1 hour.

dimanche 20 janvier 2008

Sautéed Chicken with Chiles and Coconut Cream

Thai cuisine to me infers beautiful fresh tasty food. Thai cuisine blends different flavours (sweet, sour, salty bitter and spicy) and uses fresh ingredients (chillies, herbs) rather than dried. Some of the commonly used ingredients are lime, garlic, noûc mam (fish sauce), chiles, Thai basil, coriander, coconut milk qnd lemon grass.

I have two memories of Thai food from Toronto - Pad Thai from ‘The Bamboo’ (I loved that restaurant on Queen St. West with its Jamaican theme and live music nights) and Thai soup (a spicy broth with tomatoes, lemon grass and shrimp) from the tiny take out restaurant near my house at the corner of Queen and Coxwell.

In Paris I had the good fortune to go to Blue Elephant for a work dinner. We ordered the tasting menu and everything was amazing. Blue Elephant has restaurants in several cities now and more to come. In Bangkok, they have a cooking school in addition to the restaurant. Some of the Blue Elephant products (high quality prepared dishes and sauces) are available at some of Paris’ grocery stores like Monoprix and La Grande Épicerie.

Try this spicy chicken dish. Please take care when handling hot chiles – protect your hands or be careful wash your hands afterward and not touch your eyes or other sensitive areas.

Thai Sautéed Chicken with Chiles and Coconut Cream
Serves 4

500 g (1 lb) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
30 mL (2 Tbsp) vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
10 mL (2 tsp) small red chile pepper, finely sliced 60 g (2 oz) fresh basil leaves, cut in strips
30 mL (2 Tbsp) nuöc mám (Thai fish sauce)
5 mL (1 tsp) fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
7.5 mL (1-1/2 tsp) sugar
250 mL (1 cup) coconut cream

Remove any fat and sinew from the chicken; cut into strips.
Heat oil in a wok, add onion and chile pepper; cook stirring until onion is tender but not coloured. Turn element to high, add chicken; cook, stirring from time to time, until done. Add the basil, nuöc mám, cilantro and sugar. Cook 1 minute longer. Pour in the coconut cream and stir until heated through. Serve with a bowl of jasmine or basmati rice.

lundi 14 janvier 2008

Colourful Cauliflower and Tomato Curry

I was excited when the first Starbucks came to Paris. But then they expanded and now there seems to be one on every corner. I had a Starbucks coffee at the Frankfurt Airport on my way to Ottawa for Christmas and reflected on how it is not special to me anymore. It can be found everywhere. I remember madly hunting for a Starbucks in Chicago with my friend Carol quite a few years ago since we both love strong coffee and lattes and it was a struggle to find a good coffee in downtown Chicago. I used to bring back coffee beans to Paris from Canada before Starbucks invaded the market. Now I rarely ever go to Starbucks or buy their coffee beans. Globalization can be too much of a good thing.

One of the special things about travelling is that you can find things that you can’t get at home. Today, I can find almost every food product I want anywhere. There are very few cravings for things but more for the atmosphere of different places. Some things belong where they originated where they are more authentic.

Jobs are becoming global too. Package a piece up and ship it to somewhere that it can be done for less money. I love working globally and getting to know people from all over the world. Sometimes never even meeting them in person but collaborating remotely. One has to learn how to communicate – to be understood and not offend anyone. Sometimes things in one culture have a totally different meaning in another – being aware of that is the key to effective communication.

As a lot of today’s high-tech jobs are going to India and we are working with an Indian vendor/partner, I wonder how they fare in finding ingredients to cook their home cuisine in Luxembourg.

Here is one of my favourite Indian recipes.

Colourful Cauliflower and Tomato Curry
Serves 4

1 lg. onion, coarsely chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
10 mL (2 tsp) butter or oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
5-10 mL (1 – 2 tsp) curry powder
1.25 mL (1/4 tsp) ground cumin
1 med. size cauliflower, broken into florets, slice base
4 lg. ripe tomatoes, quartered then halved
125 mL (1/2 cup) light sour cream
Toasted cashews or sesame seeds (optional)
Fresh coriander, chopped

Heat butter or oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, peppers and garlic. Sprinkle with curry and cumin. Sauté over low heat for 5 min., stirring often. Add the cauliflower and tomatoes. Turn heat to med-high and stir frequently until cauliflower is done and sauce is formed, about 10 – 15 min. Stir in sour cream and serve over rice. Sprinkle with coriander.

For a complete vegetarian entrée sprinkle each serving with toasted cashews or sesame seeds.

dimanche 6 janvier 2008

Boeuf Stroganov

Happy New Year!

Best wishes for health, happiness and prosperity in 2008.

Here is an easy and delicious dinner idea for cold winter evenings. This dish can be prepared in advance and reheated just before serving making it perfect for entertaining. Adjust the amount and strength (mild or hot) of the paprika to your taste. Complete the meal with plain white rice or rice pilaf and a tossed green salad.

Bœuf Stroganov
Serves 4

45 ml (3 Tbsp) olive oil
600 g (1-1/4 lbs.) filet of beef, cut into strips
30 g (1 oz.) butter
3 large shallots, finely chopped
15 mL (1 Tbsp) paprika
60g (2 oz.) mushrooms, sliced
30 mL (1/8 cup) white wine vinegar
60 mL (1/4 cup) cognac
250 mL (1 cup) chicken stock
200 mL (3/4 cup) crème fraîche or sour cream
Pickles, cut into julienne strips
Beet, cut into julienne strips

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add beef; sauté for 3-5 minutes, stir to brown on all sides. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan; add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes, without colouring. Add paprika and mushrooms; cook over high heat until the liquid has evaporated. Add vinegar and cook for 1 minute until the pan is almost dry. Add the cognac; cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and keep warm. Add the chicken stock to the pan; cook until reduced by half. Add the crème fraîche or sour cream; return the beef and mushrooms to the pan to reheat.

Garnish with pickles and beets.