FLUX part 2 – A magical summer’s eve dinner

There is truly something magical about enjoying a meal composed of ingredients harvested just a few metres from your table. The second FLUX dinner, held Monday, July 21 at Rideau Pines Farm in North Gower, just south of Ottawa, was not only a delicious showcase of hyper-local food, it was also a pretty awesome party, with freshly-sawed planks for platters, live music, plentiful drinks, perfect weather, post-dinner ‘smores by the campfire and obliging fireflies rounding out the evening.

fluxjuly2014

The FLUX dinner series is the brainchild of Chef Danny Mongeon, one of Ottawa’s rising stars on the culinary scene.

You may recall that I was quite impressed with the first FLUX dinner, held in June at Mariposa Farm, east of the city. The brainchild of wonderchef Danny Mongeon, known for his culinary wizardry at Hooch Bourbon House, FLUX is a travelling dinner club of sorts, featuring inventive collaborations involving some of Ottawa’s finest young chefs, including Kyle Mortimer-Proulx of Lowertown Brewery, Stephen LaSalle of The Albion Rooms, The Courtyard Restaurant’s Ian Reed, Ian Carswell of K-W Catering (National Gallery), and Hooch’s Adam Bannerman. Once again, generous suppliers stepped up to help with the event, including The Grange Winery, Jim Beam and Beau’s Brewery. It was a fundraiser for the important work being done by Operation Come Home, for whom the night raised $3000. In addition, all kitchen and service staff volunteered to work at the event.

What a delightful surprise to step off our school bus shuttles and arrive at Rideau Pines Farm's outdoor dining room.

What a delightful surprise to step off our school bus shuttles and arrive at Rideau Pines Farm’s outdoor dining room.

The next FLUX dinner will take place at The Grange Winery in Prince Edward County on August 4, 2014. It will be an intimate affair with just 20 tickets up for grabs. You won’t want to miss it, so watch Facebook for details, coming soon.

Volunteer servers like Julie Ribi, shown here with shots of tasty yellow tomato gazpacho, were both cheerful and professional throughout the entire evening, adding much to the fun atmosphere of FLUX.

Volunteer servers like Julie Ribi, shown here with shots of tasty yellow tomato gazpacho, were both cheerful and professional throughout the entire evening, adding much to the fun atmosphere of FLUX.

Delightful little bites to start the evening included these delicate stuffed potato nests.

Delightful little bites to start the evening included these delicate stuffed potato nests.

These pretty compressed watermelon cubes were a big hit among guests.

These pretty compressed watermelon cubes were a big hit among guests.

The Vandenbergs (owners of Rideau Pines Farm) generously invited guests to tour the farm and pick some berries.

The Vandenbergs (owners of Rideau Pines Farm) generously invited guests to tour the farm and pick some berries.

Stephen LaSalle gets help in the outdoor kitchen - everything was cooked over an open fire - assembling the first course, a charcuterie smorgasboard.

Stephen LaSalle gets help in the outdoor kitchen – everything was cooked over an open fire – assembling the first course, a charcuterie smorgasboard.

The charcuterie platters were dubbed 'Dan O'Brien's Odd Bits' and featured beef heart pastrami, head cheese, green tomato chow chow, dills, and a spectacularly yummy cold vegetable salad featuring Rideau Pines radishes on a Glengarry Celtic Blue puree with microgreens. This course was created by Ian Reed and Stephen LaSalle.

The charcuterie platters were dubbed ‘Dan O’Brien’s Odd Bits’ and featured beef heart pastrami, head cheese, green tomato chow chow, dills, and a spectacularly yummy cold vegetable salad featuring Rideau Pines radishes on a Glengarry Celtic Blue puree with microgreens. This course was created by Ian Reed and Stephen LaSalle.

The second course, brought to us by Kyle Mortimer-Proulx and Stephen LaSalle, included Atlantic sturgeon wrapped in Seed to Sausage bacon, rapini wilted in bacon fat with smoked honey and veal jus plus an array of gorgeous Rideau Pines veggies cooked a la plancha and topped with smoked bread crumbs.

The second course, brought to us by Kyle Mortimer-Proulx and Stephen LaSalle, included Atlantic sturgeon wrapped in Seed to Sausage bacon, rapini wilted in bacon fat with smoked honey and veal jus plus an array of gorgeous Rideau Pines veggies cooked a la plancha and topped with smoked bread crumbs.

Adam Bannerman's 8 hour salad included greens all picked at Rideau Pines Farm within 1 to 8 hours of service, along with carrot tips,onion greens, purslane, kohlrabi and blitzed, pickled cauliflower. It was so fresh and delicious.

Adam Bannerman’s 8 hour salad included greens all picked at Rideau Pines Farm within 1 to 8 hours of service, along with carrot tips,onion greens, purslane and blitzed, pickled cauliflower. It was so fresh and delicious.

Danny Mongeon contributed spit-roasted pork as well as three-day brined Cornish hens, cooked over woodcoals in a method similar to Jamaican Jerk Chicken; Ian Reed added German potato salad with capers and a hot mustard vinaigrette.

Danny Mongeon contributed spit-roasted pork as well as three-day brined Cornish hens, cooked over woodcoals in a method similar to Jamaican Jerk Chicken; Ian Reed added German potato salad with capers and a hot mustard vinaigrette.

Darkness was settling in as dessert was served - heaping platters of New York cheesecake with flourless chocolate cake, raspberry compote, caramelized maple tuile and a goat cheese garnish.

Darkness was settling in as dessert was served – heaping platters of New York cheesecake with flourless chocolate cake, raspberry compote, caramelized maple tuile and a goat cheese garnish.

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cucumber-mint sparkling vodka lemonade

There’s nothing more refreshing than lemonade on a hot summer’s day…unless, of course, it’s a cucumber and mint infused lemonade, spiked with a judicious amount of vodka. This drink is light and super tasty without being too boozy or too sweet. The infusion process actually pickles the cucumbers slightly, so it’s fun to include them in the drinks as a tasty prize at the bottom of the glass. Because the flavour is so delicate, it’s a good idea to use a premium vodka – I am a big fan of the quadruple-distilled, Ontario-made Silver Lake brand. This recipe is best made just a few hours before consuming as it will start to turn a little bitter after about 8 hours.

Adding cucumbers, mint and vodka to homemade lemonade makes for a super refreshing cocktail.

Adding cucumbers, mint and vodka to homemade lemonade makes for a super refreshing cocktail.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) white sugar
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (250 mL) packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 baby (6 inch/15 cm) seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces (190 mL) premium vodka
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ice cubes
  • soda water
  • lemon and cucumber slices to garnish

Method

  • Put the sugar in a medium pitcher.
  • Cut the lemon slices in half and add to the pitcher along with the mint leaves.
  • With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture (muddle) vigorously to extract juices and aromatic oils from the lemon and mint.
Muddling the sugar, lemon and mint draws juices and essential oils out of the fruit and herbs.

Muddling the sugar, lemon and mint draws juices and essential oils out of the fruit and herbs.

  • Add the cucumber slices and stir gently to combine.
  • Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1 – 2 hours, stirring occasionally. During this time, the sugar will dissolve into the liquid that gets drawn out of the lemon and cucumber.
  • After an hour or two, add the vodka, stir well and let sit for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, to thoroughly infuse the alcohol with the cucumber, lemon and mint.
  • When ready to prepare cocktails, add 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice to the vodka mixture.
  • Strain the vodka mixture into four cocktail glasses (approximately 3 ounces / 90 mL of liquid per glass).
  • Reserve some of the cucumber slices from the infusion; put 2 – 3 of them in each glass.
  • Add several ice cubes to each glass and top with 1 – 2 ounces (30 – 60 mL) of soda water.
  • Garnish with fresh lemon and cucumber slices.

Makes four cocktails.

Posted in Drinks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fat-free Microwave Potato Chips

I don’t watch much television – I’d rather be cooking, reading or spending time outdoors. Once in a while I do succumb, however. A couple of months ago, I was flipping through the channels looking for something worth watching and I paused at an infomercial for a microwave potato chip maker. It got me to thinking, “I can do that without a plastic gadget” … and the results are delicious! Use a mandoline (or sharp knife and steady hand) to create uniform, thin potato slices; soak in water or vinegar to remove excess starch, and then, in less than ten minutes you’ll have a bowlful of low calorie snacks. One of the things I love most is that you can cook up just one potato at a time, so you won`t have the rest of bag winking at you seductively from across the room. These chips are tasty on their own, plus they make the perfect guilt-free dippers. Speaking of dips, ditch the sour cream and use lowfat Greek yogurt – it’s fantastic for chips!

It may be hard to believe, but you really can make tasty, crisp potato chips in the microwave!

It may be hard to believe, but you really can make tasty, crisp potato chips in the microwave!

Ingredients

For plain and salt & vinegar chips

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • Cold water
  • Cider vinegar (approximately 1 cup / 250 mL)
  • Salt

For the dips

  • 1 cup lowfat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (30 mL) powdered Ranch salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon (30 mL) taco seasoning

Method

  • Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible (1/8 inch or .4 cm).
  • Put half the slices in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Put remaining slices in a second small bowl and cover with cider vinegar.
  • Soak the slices for 45 – 60 minutes.
  • While potatoes are soaking, prepare dips: divide yogurt among two small bowls. Add powdered Ranch dressing mix (or other seasoning of your choice) to one bowl and taco seasoning mix to the other. Stir to blend well; cover and refrigerate.
  • To cook the chips: Working with one bowl at a time, remove the potato slices from the liquid and dry on a clean kitchen towel.
Be sure to dry your potato slices thoroughly after soaking; this will help promote crisping

Be sure to dry your potato slices thoroughly after soaking; this will help promote crisping

  • Lay the slices out in a single layer on a sheet of parchment paper the same size as your microwave turntable.
  • Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  • Lay the parchment on the turntable, close the door and microwave on high power for 3 minutes.
  • Carefully flip the potato slices over (they’ll be very hot).
  • Microwave for 2 minutes. Check and remove any chips that are golden brown and place these on a wire rack to cool.
After you've flipped them, watch the potato slices carefully as they will start to brown very quickly.

After you’ve flipped them, watch the potato slices carefully as they will start to brown very quickly.

  • Continue microwaving the potato slices in 30 second increments, removing cooked chips after each interval and placing them on a wire rack to cool.
Gauge the doneness of your chips by colour, not texture. They may still be a little floppy when you remove them from the microwave, but they will quickly crisp up. Gauge the doneness of your chips by colour, not texture. They may still be a little floppy when you remove them from the microwave, but they will quickly crisp up.

Gauge the doneness of your chips by colour, not texture. They may still be a little floppy when you remove them from the microwave, but they will quickly crisp up.

  • Depending upon the power of your microwave, the entire cooking process can take from six to ten minutes.
  • Be sure to watch the potatoes carefully as they cook so they don’t burn.
  • Note that they will crisp up as they cool and once cooled can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.
  • If you are making multiple batches of chips, be sure to let the microwave turntable cool down between batches so it doesn’t overheat and crack.

Makes 3 – 4 cups of chips (depending upon size of potatoes) and 1 cup of dip.

* Final notes: if you’re looking for low-fat instead of no-fat, you can spritz or brush the potato slices very lightly on one side with olive oil before microwaving them. It adds just a gentle hit of flavour that my grown-up kids really liked.

 

Posted in Appetizers, Snacks, Tips and Tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Raspberry-Mint Lime Rickey

Cocktails and mocktails made with real fruit juice always taste so delicious. I like to make many batches of different kinds of fruit syrup during the summer – they freeze beautifully and can help bring a little sunshine and warmth into the colder months of the year. The combination of raspberry and mint makes a really fantastic syrup; note that it’s best made a day or two before you want to start mixing drinks so it will be chilled. Using a contrasting but complementary fruit to garnish – in this case, blackberries - gives this updated version of a classic cocktail an extra visual appeal.

This classic lime cocktail gets a huge flavour and colour boost with raspberry and mint simple syrup.

This classic lime cocktail gets a huge flavour and colour boost with raspberry and mint simple syrup.

Ingredients

For the Raspberry-Mint Simple Syrup

  • 12 ounces (340 g) fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup (250 mL) tightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) water

For the cocktail

  • 1.5 ounces (45 mL) raspberry-mint syrup
  • 1.5 ounces (45 mL) Premium gin (I like Ungava)
  • 1 ounce (30 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Lime wedge
  • 4 ice cubes
  • Soda water
  • Blackberries (or raspberries) to garnish

Method

  • Combine raspberries, mint leaves and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir well and let sit, covered, for 6 – 12 hours to macerate and draw juice out of the fruit.
  • Add water and bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  • Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes then strain through a fine sieve, pressing down on solids to extract as much juice as possible.
  • Refrigerate in a tightly-covered jar until ready to use. Keeps in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  • To create a cocktail, put syrup, gin, lime juice and lime wedge in a highball (tall) glass.
  • Add cubes and top with soda water. Garnish with berries.
  • To make a mocktail, simply omit the gin!

 

Makes 1 cocktail.

Posted in Drinks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holland’s Cake and Shake – a sneak peek

Your next trip to Hintonburg just might be a whole lot sweeter, thanks to the July 15 opening of Holland’s Cake and Shake. Located just across from the Parkdale Market, the shop is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood’s already-thriving food scene. Known to many in Ottawa for his superlative work at the avant-garde restaurant Atelier, Pastry Chef Michael Holland is bringing his much-lauded creativity and love of the whimsical to this new culinary endeavour.

Hollands1

Holland studied at George Brown College’s Chef School in Toronto and quickly gravitated towards pastry when he began working professionally 20 years ago.  “I really like the creative and artistic aspects of pastry,” he explains. “When I was younger I was really interested in science, math and architecture so I suppose the precision of baking is a good fit for me.”

Chef Michael Holland with his red licorice tart.

Chef Michael Holland with his red licorice tart.

He says the opening of Holland’s Cake and Shake represents the fulfillment of a long-held dream.  “It has been a lot of work to get the shop ready but I feel very gratified by the fact that every aspect of this business is something I have done myself. That has also been the major challenge – juggling so many aspects of running a business. I have learned a ton and am so grateful that my wife has been such a supportive partner throughout this adventure.”

The peanut butter and banana cake is rich and packed with flavour.

The peanut butter and banana cake is rich and packed with flavour.

The menu will be short and mostly sweet, with small layer cakes, freshly made from scratch soft-serve frozen custard (like ice cream but way, way better), milkshakes, floats and paninis on house-made bread. Coffee will be supplied by great local company Ministry of Coffee who are opening an espresso bar in the shop.

A closer look at the wickedly delicious red licorice tart.

A closer look at the wickedly delicious red licorice tart.

“I’ll be encouraging people to come in often as I’ll be switching things up on a regular basis,” says Chef Holland, who also goes by the moniker Pastry Overlord. “I love recipe development and look forward to creating all sorts of new and innovative tasty treats.”

Michael Holland's approach to baking is very playful; he loves working with candy and other ingredients. Behold the vanilla cake topped with froot loop brittle.

Michael Holland’s approach to baking is very playful; he loves working with candy and other ingredients. Behold the vanilla cake topped with froot loop brittle.

I tasted several of Holland’s mini cakes and can attest to how delicious they are. Flavours like peanut butter and banana, rich chocolate, vanilla with froot loop brittle are likely to be on regular rotation, along with other inventive goodies which I am looking forward to sampling.

Chef Michael Holland is proud to finally open his own business.

Chef Michael Holland is proud to finally open his own business.

“I like to think of Holland’s Cake and Shake as kind of a modern malt shop,” the energetic proprietor explains. I hope people will drop in once or twice a week and pick up a few cakes or a sandwich to go, or linger at one of our tables and enjoy a milkshake or coffee.”

Holland’s Cake and Shake is at 229 Armstrong Avenue and will be open Tuesdays through Sundays from approximately 8 am to 6 pm.

Posted in Food Finds, Ottawa, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sautéed Callaloo

Move over spinach, beet greens, bok choy and Swiss chard, because there’s a new game in town. Callaloo – the leafy green part of the taro plant, sometimes called dasheen bush – is quite possibly the most delicious sautéed vegetable ever. High in potassium and calcium, callaloo is popular in Jamaican and Trinidadian cuisines. While callaloo is also tasty steamed then dressed with a little salt, butter and lemon or vinegar, sautéing the tender greens with a little bit of extra seasoning makes for a extra special treat.

Callaloo leaves (from the taro plant or dasheen bush) are absolutely delicious when sauteed in butter with onion and thyme.

Callaloo leaves (from the taro plant or dasheen bush) are absolutely delicious when sauteed in butter with onion and thyme.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch callaloo to yield about 4 cups (1 L) of packed leaves
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) olive oil
  • ½ cup (125 mL) chopped sweet or regular onion
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • Generous pinch of pepper
  • Hot sauce such as Camille Desjardins’ Peach Vidalia

Method

  • Remove the toughest stems from the callaloo leaves and discard. Place leaves in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit 10 minutes then drain off the water and fill the bowl again. Let sit until ready to start preparing dish (up to 6 hours).
  • Drain the callaloo and give the leaves a good shake to remove excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside.
  • In a large sauté or saucepan, melt the butter. Add olive oil and onion. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until onion is softened.
  • Add the callaloo, thyme, water, salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 5 – 7 minutes, until the stems of the leaves are just tender, being careful not to overcook (you don’t want the leaves to turn brown).
  • Serve immediately, with hot sauce on the side.

Makes 3 – 4 servings as a side dish; can easily be doubled or tripled if you have a pot large enough.

 

Posted in Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quick Pickled Scapes

While I am not a huge fan of the taste of raw scapes (the curly green tops of garlic plants), I love them once they’re cooked a bit or, better yet, pickled in a pungent brine. Quick pickles are fun to make because you can prepare just a jar or two at a time and since they are stored in the refrigerator, you don’t have to process the jars in a hot water bath for safe longer term storage at room temperature. You can play around with the seasonings – adding sugar, for example – to suit your taste; I really like this simple combination of cider vinegar, salt and Chinese five spice blend. I think these pickles would be a great addition to lots of Asian dishes like Bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwiches) or even this yummy Asian salad with seared tuna.

 Pickled scapes have a bold, bright flavour that will liven up all sorts of dishes. They'd be great on a charcuterie platter as well!

Pickled scapes have a bold, bright flavour that will liven up all sorts of dishes. They’d be great on a charcuterie platter as well!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups (375 mL) water
  • 1.5 cups (375 mL) cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) coarse kosher salt
  • 1 small bunch scapes, washed and trimmed of discoloured or withered bits
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Chinese five-spice blend *

 in Ottawa, you can purchase excellent 5 spice blend at Cardamom and Cloves

Method

  • Wash and dry three 8 ounce (250 mL) canning jars.
  • In a saucepan, combine the water, vinegar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring, until salt is dissolved.
  • While brine is heating, cut scapes into pieces approximately 2 – 3 inches in length. Pack the scapes tightly into the canning jars, sprinkling the five-spice powder into the jars as you do so.
  • Pour the hot brine over the scapes in the jars, filling to within ¼ inch (.4 cm) of the top of the jar.
  • With a clean finger or spoon, push back any scapes that are trying to leap out of the jar.
  • Seal the jars with clean lids.
  • Let cool for 30 minutes then refrigerate. The scapes will be ready to enjoy in 24 hours but should be consumed within the month.

Makes three 8 oz jars.

Posted in Preserves, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment