Category Archives: home cooking

L’autre Choix Mini Marché

lautrechoixRecently a friend of mine opened a cool new grocery store in Westmount. It’s called L’autre Choix Mini Marché, and it’s got lots of great items to draw in business. You should check it out!

Located in Westmount at 330A Victoria Avenue, proprietor Clara Kwan’s mini-market is on a hip, happening street packed with plenty of specialty stores, including an awesome cookbook shop called Appetite for Books just up the street, where you can find a repository of books that will help you whip up your gourmet goods into tasty meals!

If you’re looking for organic, locally-grown vegetables, L’autre Choix is the place to be. Clara is selling a wide variety of farm-fresh veggies that vary seasonally, including staples like organic shallots, garlic, herbs like coriander, sweet potatoes, mini pumpkins (great for pies!), avocados, apples, baby eggplants, red and yellow peppers, Romaine lettuce, and lots more. In addition to these vegetables, she also offers some unusual items like salicorne sea beans and pied blue mushrooms from France, which will catch the eyes of foodies.

Along with her unbelievably fresh produce, Clara also offers an assortment of bulk nuts and dried fruits, plus organic pastas, dried mushrooms (shiitake, pèpes and porcini among others), organic spices, loose teas, espresso, various ramen and Korean-style packaged noodles, and various gourmet balsamic vinegars (including Rossini, Carandini and Pelloni Dispensa) and extra virgin olive oils (Toscano and Redoro Veneto Napoli Cella).

A photo from the grand opening (photo by Flickr user Cedric Sam)

A photo from the grand opening (photo by Flickr user Cedric Sam)

Vegetarians are sure to love the Worthington faux meat products, ranging from veggie burgers to Swiss “stake” with gravy to multigrain “chicken” cutlets and even “little links.”

For the meat eaters, Clara can order organic turkeys for your holiday meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) at a great price. Who needs frozen Butterballs when you can get a locally raised bird that’s easier on your stomach and the environment?

Oh, and did I mention that the prices here are AMAZING?! Organic avocados for $1.80 a piece, $1.99/lb for organic garlic, $1.99 for a bunch of organic coriander… the list of bargains goes on and on.

If you’re looking for fresh produce, great gourmet items, meat alternatives or even organic versions of the staples you use to stock your cupboards, be sure to check out L’autre Choix Mini Marché!

ADDRESS: 330A Victoria Avenue (Westmount)
METRO: Vendôme
PHONE: 514-369-1888

Hot summertime eats that will keep you cool

Montreal is sweltering, and the idea of turning on the stove makes me break out in a cold sweat. Actually, it’s only cold sweat because I’m standing in my bedroom in front of the air-conditioner. Otherwise, it’d just be your garden variety of hot sweat. Yuck.

In any event, cooking in the summertime is a challenge, not only because it heats up the house, but also because sometimes you don’t even want to think about food, much less prepare it. It’s just too damn hot.

Therefore, I have compiled a list of my top 5 Hot Summertime Eats That Will Keep You Cool. Check it before you wreck it!

  1. Chicken Caesar Salad – A favourite at my place all year ’round, but it’s during the oppressive summer months when this simple salad really shines. Grab yourself a rotisserie chicken from your neaby grocery store, a jar of Renée’s Mighty Caesar dressing (for the extra garlic punch!), a head of Romaine lettuce and some Parmesan cheese and you’re almost done. Wash that lettuce good ‘n’ proper, spin it a couple of times through the ol’ spinner de salade, rip it up into bite-sized hunks, schmear it with dressing, toss and place it on some nice plates. Rip up your rotisserie chicken with your hands, place the pieces on top of your lettuce, then grab some Parmesan and/or Cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top of the whole thing. Dinner is served!
  2. Sushi – It’s carbolicious, but it’s also served cold. Therefore, sushi is my summertime treat of choice. Save the saké for the winter months and drink a nice, cold glass of white wine with your choice of sushi. Yum! (Yes, this is a lazy woman’s choice, as you will invariably have to order out. Unless you know how to roll your own, which I have done before, but would not recommend as it is rather labour intensive for slug-like summer days.)
  3. moishescoleslawColeslaw – Okay, maybe this is a crazy item to have on this list, but coleslaw has become an obsession with me in recent months. In Quebec, most of the coleslaw is served in a weird vinegary oil. This is not the coleslaw I’m talking about. You want CREAMY coleslaw, something like what Moishe’s makes. Alternately, if you’re not into coleslaw, you can also try their deliciously garlicky potato salad with roasted garlic. Cold salads are your friend. (Except for those weird bean salads, bleh.)
  4. Cottage Cheese/Yogurt – A friend of mine remarked that although his family always had cottage cheese in the fridge when he was growing up, he couldn’t recall ever having seen anybody actually eating it. At my house, cottage cheese is a must-have staple. High in protein, low in carbs, and a great addition to your dairy intake, this could be the perfect food. Don’t stick it in a canteloupe the way those weird Californians in movies do; just eat it straight from the tub. Cold, delicious curds. Great when you don’t feel like cooking. Don’t like cottage cheese? Weirdo. No, but seriously: get yourself some yogurt. I’m a huge fan of the Source “dessert” lemon one by Yoplait, as well as the cherry version. Yum.
  5. Baby Carrots – Feel free to substitute any fresh veggies you happen to like, but I’m a big fan of the baby carrot. Or the “carotte genre miniature” as they are apparently called en français. (What a mouthful.) Cool, clean tasting with a satisfying crunch, with or without dips or dressings, the baby carrot is simply delightful on a hot summer day.

Honourable Mention – Deli Meats

Salami doesn’t seem to be much in demand in this province, which is all the better for me, as I love it. But really, any cold deli meats will do on a particularly humid, disgusting day. Peel off a few pieces, eat ’em alone, or wrap ’em up in a mini tortilla with some cheese. God bless deli meats. It’s the one thing I really miss about New York. Montreal doesn’t know shit about delis, and if they’ve got some of those amazing mozzarella knots hiding around here somewhere, like the kind you can see over at the Brooklyn Pork Store, I’d like to know about it. Those things are delicious. Deli style, jugga-jigga-wugga!

So, what are your favourite summer foods?

President’s Choice tuna gets fancy

coconuttunaWhile I’m not normally very picky about brands, I’m starting to develop a real loyalty to the President’s Choice line of products. I recently tried some of their new tuna flavours, which incorporate sauces like Curry Coconut Cream Sauce and Sweet and Sour Sauce into your fish-eating experience, and they were really tasty.

They were also really cheap, which I love as a proponent of the Shoestring Lifestyle. Each can cost only $1.99, and if you eat it over rice, you’ve got yourself a full meal right there. (Yes, I know, I am breaking my previously stated “Rice is the devil” rule. It’s still the devil, but sometimes you’ve just got to eat what feels right.)

The Curry Coconut Cream Sauce tuna is a great Thai-inspired dish, and contains chunks of pineapple and red pepper, in addition to the chunky light tuna. I’m currently eating a bowl of it with some basmati rice, and it’s really delicious. Yesterday I tried the Sweet and Sour version (also over basmati rice), which was a nice deviation from sweet and sour chicken and also contained bits of pineapple.

I would definitely recommend these to anybody who loves tuna or is looking for a way to spice up the old tuna and mayo standard sandwich. These aren’t spreadable, as they contain a lot of sauce, so they’re better for eating at home than at work (unless you come to work with a container of pre-made rice or noodles and just heat it all up, come lunchtime). The nutritional info shows that this is a low-carb snack (though adding rice or noodles would definitely bump it up), and the sodium levels are decent as well. You’ll get 250 calories from the Curry Coconut, but only 170 from the Sweet and Sour version (though the sodium levels are higher on that one).

For those who aren’t convinced by the pan-Asian styles of those two options, there are also the Flaked Light Tuna in Black Pepper Sauce and the Flaked Light Tuna with Beans and Corn varieties. My husband tried the black pepper sauce version and said he liked it, though we are both avoiding the beans and corn combo. Yuck!

If you’re looking to buy some of these new additions to the PC line, they’re available at any Provigo or Loblaws throughout Quebec. Bon appétit!

Feast, Famine and the SAQ

eggplant

Delicious recipe and photo courtesy of Tchin Tchin

As a freelance writer, I go through periods of feast and famine. Currently, I’m in famine mode, so I haven’t been dining out at any places I could review for Shoestring Montreal. I have, however, been picking up various free publications such as the SAQ‘s Tchin Tchin Magazine, which boasts some interesting Italian-themed recipes to go with the Italian wine reviews that make up the bulk of the current issue.

I haven’t had a chance to try any of them yet (that whole famine thing being a drain on my finances for outlandish recipes), but I’m dying to try both their Osso Bucco recipe (yes, I eat baby cows because I’m an evil monster who enjoys the taste of tender baby flesh) and the unusual Eggplant Cannelloni, where pasta is replaced by eggplant. Is it just me, or does this sound deliciously low-carb?

Here’s the latter, in case you’d like to try it for yourself and let me know how it turns out:

EGGPLANT CANNELLONI A LA SAQ
(serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices eggplant (cut lengthwise from a large eggplant), about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups store-bought tomato sauce (aw, c’mon, make yer own!)
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F).
  2. In a skillet, brown an eggplant slice in a little oil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. Repeat with the rest of the eggplant slices.
  3. In a bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, garlic, egg yolk and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Spread this mixture onto the eggplant slices. Roll up each slice and place in a casserole dish (like, really, you want me to put this messy cannelloni on a baking sheet? I think not!).
  5. Cover the eggplant cannelloni with the tomato sauce and sprinkle with the mozzarella. Bake for 30 minutes.

I kind of doubt this would actually serve 4 people, as the recipe claims, but you can always make more, right? Oh, and the SAQ suggests pairing this with a Campolieti ($17.35) or Velletri Riserva ($14.90) if you’ve got the cash to spare.

semifreddo

For dessert, who wants to whip me up a nice Lemon Semifreddo?

Mom’s Home Cookin’

I absolutely waste too much time on the Internet, easily distracted by shiny objects and new technology. However, I also think there are some great websites I use on a fairly regular basis that are worth mentioning here. Some will help you to make better meals at home, others are purely for the food porn photos, and some of them are just vehicles for my own obsessions.

Like TwitPic, which is almost always a receptacle for my bizarre take on still-life photography. Example:

SRSLY, why does this product exist?

SRSLY, why does this product exist?

I have no idea why anyone would have thought to themselves, “Hey! You know what’s missing from the world of flavoured coffee? SOUTHERN COMFORT!” To me, SoCo is not a flavour, in the way that hazelnut or mocha is. Sure, you can add a splash of it to your morning brew, if you’re into whisky, but I’m more of a Bailey’s kinda gal. Even so, the concept of a Bailey’s flavoured coffee would still be ludicrous to me. Either you get the real thing or you leave it out entirely, right? What’s the point of having the flavour of the alcohol, but not the alcohol?

Some will immediately jump to the conclusion that I am simply an alcoholic, but let me clarify by saying that I rarely add alcohol to my coffee. Kind of like Red Bull and vodka, the concept is peculiar. If I’m out of milk, then Bailey’s adds a nice creaminess, but a shot of whisky? Yech.

Anyway, back to my point: Southern Comfort flavoured coffee is weird, but it arrived as part of a holiday gift package my mom and sister put together, so I decided to give it a try. Verdict? Southern Comfort apparently tastes like orange. As in the colour. As in orange jelly beans, to be precise. Who knew?

Kolatchkies by mom

Kolatchkies by mom

Along with the coffee, my mom also threw in some of her homemade kolatchkies and some maple walnut fudge. Luckily for me, my husband hates maple more than anything in the world (aside from mixing sweet and savoury items, like ham and pineapple), which means I get the fudge all to myself.

But enough about TwitPic and my bizarre photos posted there. What about these other websites I claim are good?

First, there’s Open Source Food, which was recommended to me by AV Flox. I’ve posted a few simple recipes there, as I haven’t been cooking on a grand scale lately, and today’s recipe was something I termed Fancypants Grilled Cheese. In an homage to The Minimalist, Mark Bittman (whose blog and column in the New York Times I also recommend, as he’s very funny and very New York—particularly in his short videos), I thought I’d pass along a recipe for something really easy, something you probably take for granted that you know how to make. Indeed, most people make a grilled cheese with Velveeta slices and margarine on the stove, along with a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, just like mom used to make. My recipe is slightly different, both because I’m lazy and hate washing dishes and also because I’m a sucker for things with less than five ingredients that taste amazing. Granted, the recipe relies on quality ingredients, but it’s also hella easy to make and everyone can find good bread, good cheddar and an avocado even in the middle of winter, right?

If not, you’re really in trouble.

Anyway, all that to say that Open Source Food has tons of recipes that have been field-tested (i.e. if you’re gonna post something, you have to have big photos so you must have actually MADE IT), many of which come from overseas and lots of which are Asian. I like Asian food, but have no idea how to put together a dish, so it’s awesome to see Asian home chefs giving their opinions on Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean cuisine (and more!) so that North American schmucks like me can see how the other side of the world cooks. Plus, since they tend to use readily-available items, you get to see what they’ve got in their pantries, what they regularly buy at the grocery store, etc.

Which all has me thinking that I need to start posting more recipes, which means I need to start cooking more and trying new dishes, rather than relying on my old standbys (hamburgers and tacos are the usual suspects on nights when neither of us want to cook). But there are so many choices, I almost don’t know where to begin. I’ve got subscriptions to Saveur and Cook’s Country, I’ve got a copy of the 2008 America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, and I like to browse Epicurious, even though I’ve never really found anything there that I was convinced I could make (mostly due to their reliance on pricey specialty ingredients that seem absurdly hard to come by here in Montreal).

So I’m asking my readers (all two of you): what recipes would you recommend? What are your personal favourites, and have you got any minimalist ideas with 5 ingredients or less? I’m curious to know what other people like to cook, and what your approach involves!