Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tweaking Little Things on Harvesting Dinner’s New Website

As you may know, I have migrated Harvesting Dinner to its own domain. Although this site is still active and you can find all my old posts, I will no longer publish recipes and «foodie» articles here. With new sites, there is always an adjustment period to get everything right.

New Blog website and little idiosyncrasies:

Upon visiting the brand new Harvesting Dinner, you may have seen a newsletter sign-up option. You may have even filled the form (THANK YOU for that, your interest in my work is more than I can ask). However, the newsletter is not yet available: it is a project for 2017. It had inadvertently replaced the «follow me» sign-up form. My web designer Lynn has swapped the forms for me and the old «subscribe to Harvesting Dinner via e-mail» is now at the forefront of each post (the newsletter option has been moved in a less obvious spot for now). If you wish to receive an e-mail notification whenever I publish a new article, please add your e-mail and subscribe. The newsletter sign-up is separate and not linked to this post notification subscription.

I apologize for the inconvenience although I must say that the glitches have been very minor with this launch: I would call them tweaks and not glitches. That is because Lynn is so awesome!!!

I hope you will click on the link and follow me in my new home :). Thank you for the outpour of support! You have no idea how much I appreciate it.
Nathalie

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Harvesting Dinner is Moving to a New Home

Dear friends and followers,

It brings me great pleasure to present Harvesting Dinner’s new and revamped site. All the cool featured are presented on the first post but I think the coolest feature of all is the «print recipe» feature.

What does it mean for this site? well, it will remain alive but not active. I will no longer add new posts here. I hope you will continue the journey with me by following the new website:

http://www.harvestingdinner.com

I wish to thank you all  for the likes, comments and follows since September 2014. The journey has just begun… XO

Nathalie

A Change of Seasons…

It has been nearly three months since my last blog entry… It has been a full three months with some high moments and some very low ones too. On the exciting side of things, there was a trip to Spain to plan which ate up pretty much my entire August until we left on September 16th. On the very sad side of things, we came back to face my mom in law’s rapidly deteriorating health. We said our final goodbyes last Friday as she finally let go of all her suffering.

My sweet mom in law Maria has been at the core ofmany of my blog posts and my inspiration in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, both my own mom and her have been my lifelong kitchen mentors. Everything I master well, I have both of them to be utterly thankful for. I make mean soups because Maria showed me how to extract the maximum flavour in broths. I often say that Harvesting Dinner should have been named My Heritage Kitchen instead… So true.

The Funeral is talking place this week and I am honouring my second mom by baking a few things but most specifically, her infamous apple cake. I shared that recipe with you last year and I thought the best tribute I could offer is to share it once again. Please visit and enjoy Omi’s Apfelkuchen

There are a few other recipes that oozes her touch. Her Cabbage Rolls for instance are a family favourite. I made these during this past Thanksgiving weekend. I couldn’t think of a better thanksgiving meal to have while we were enjoying the cottage, this magical place that is the fruit of her and dad’s labour.

I am utterly thankful to have shadowed her in her kitchen all those years, jotting ingredients, measuring all the “a bit of this, a handful of that” so that I can recreate all of her delicious recipes. I know she will be standing by my side on Wednesday while I bake the apple cake. I know she will be tickled pink that it is the cake I chose to bake because of all the scrumptious desserts she baked, nothing was more acclaimed by all than this particular cake. And she made it often, for every occasion because you know, Apfelkuchen cures everything!

I am grateful to have had such a wonderful second mom in my life. She loved unconditionally,  showered us with more love than you can possible imagine and spoiled us rotten ALL THE TIME! She was extremely proud of her two grandsons, our Princes and she shared a very special bond with her only child, my very own King. How lucky am I that she treated me like her own daughter. I am already missing her dearly…

#apples #cabbage #cabbagerolls #applecake

 

Cabbage  Rolls 2
Cabbage Rolls 2

Summer Parties Beg For Ice Cream Sandwiches!

It’s Thursday already which means that my vacation at the cottage is drawing  to an end way too quickly. I must vacate tomorrow afternoon to let a brand new set of vacationers come and bask in our idyllic setting.  I had promised myself days on end of uninterrupted blog writing and instead, I found myself scrambling for several days looking for inspiration… How ironic to now have the time to let my creativity flow and end up suffering from writer’s block while when I am at work, and have very little time to spare, my mind is full of ideas. I wanted to write a lot and to write something that would suck you right in, wanting to read bit more, maybe to read it all. In hopes of getting my pen and my mojo flowing, I settled in comfortably on the sun filled porch with several of my favourite cookbook authors, reading chapter upon chapter of what inspires them most and what sparks their culinary passions. Maybe by osmosis of the great ones, I could trigger some creativity of my own? I read about Dominique Ansel’s impressive rise to glory (he’s the Cronut guy from NYC) and how Rachel Roddy settled in Rome while searching to find something else in her life (she’s high up there on my list of faves). I read several chapters of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem and his love affair with his old world, regretted not having brought along Mimi Thorrisson’s or David Lebovitz’s books and managed to get caught up on several past editions of Bon Appétit magazine, especially the latest few about summer everything! I am completely absorbed by cookbooks that read like novels, of stories of visits to farmer’s markets, fishmongers, butchers and bakeries. I love to read about that special second hand deep dish enamel glazed cast iron pot that was snatched up somewhere in a remote country side flea market and that now makes the perfect cassoulet. As I read and entered their world, it struck me how much we are the same. They are like old friends, whom you wish to linger with over a long stretched out meal, tossing dirty plates aside once emptied to be cleaned much later, sweeping breadcrumbs with the back of the hand, not wanting to leave the table while another bottle gets uncorked. At the root of each of these authors’ books are the memories of meals of their childhoods, of family gatherings and of dinners with friends, which inherently has always been the driving force behind my own love affair with food.

And so it came to me after reading pages and pages of meals served in bucolic settings or whipped up in tiny, awkward and poorly appointed kitchens. That is exactly what just happened this past weekend; whipping up meals for a huge crowd in a bucolic setting in an awkward kitchen!!! Instant inspiration! The King and I just crowned another successful family gathering at our cottage, an annual event that seems to grow each year as our young ones now have dates to share in the fun with. Although the weekend is a community effort of potluck dishes, snacks and desserts, my fun is to take over the big Saturday night feast. It takes me weeks to finally settle on the menu for the event and I love every minute of planning! Feeding crowds of hungry guests seem to come naturally to me… I remember exactly when I hosted my first grown up reception, it was in the summer of 1990. I set to make my first gastronomic meal for 10 wanting to showcase my beautiful new china, acquired barely a year prior when my King and I walked out of a church under a shower of confetti. To be frank, I don’t remember much of the menu details other than little smoke salmon and crème fraiche pumpernickel tartines and grilled shrimps with aioli served as appetizers. I know the cocktail was followed by a three course sit down meal yet I forget what I served. But what I remember, and what my guests remember (most are still part of my life) is the mood of that evening. It was a classy backyard affair, complete with our brand new «newlywed» china, silver and crystal. Tables were draped with flowing white tablecloths and little white lights and candles gave off a beautiful glow against the grapevine backdrop. It was the type of evening that lingers just so and you wish never to end… My own heart was conquered by the perfection of that night and I have since pursued to recreate the magic, often getting pretty darn close yet never quite fully capturing that exact vibe, as it often happens with «firsts». But close enough and just as recently as this past weekend, there was magic again in the air….

Feeding a lot of people is always a challenge, especially when you count on Mother Nature’s generous spirit to grace the event with perfect weather. Over the years I have learned that my minuscule cottage kitchen is amazing at feeding crowds and that using the rotisserie feature on the BBQ may seem like a bright idea but better kept for smaller more intimate dinner parties. I have learned that candles are absolutely necessary to bring magic to any table, even when it is dressed with a cheap plastic tablecloth and that planning a «make most of it ahead» menu guarantees I can partake with everyone from the get go. I have learned that renting dishes is amazing for the main feast and Royal Chinet is a crowd’s best friend for all the other meals. And lastly, I have learned that although many question the necessity of serving dessert when planning is under way (everyone is always watching their waistline), somehow homemade desserts disappear much, much faster than a plate of crudités!!! In keeping with my «make as much ahead as possible» philosophy, one of the desserts I chose to make this year were ice cream sandwiches from scratch. I decided that this handheld bundle of sweetness would be perfect for cottage life and would please all age groups. My chocolate chip cookies already having a near cult following, a recipe I have adapted from a Martha Stewart original, they would be the perfect vehicle to carry big scoops of homemade ice cream. It was also high time I put my lovely ice cream machine to good use: having stored it away after moving from the big house to the smaller apartment 3 years ago. I suddenly had a light bulb moment: this machine would serve us all much better at the cottage where frozen treats are highly favoured but transporting them from grocery store to the lake can be a bit of a gamble. Why have I not thought of this sooner??? The ice cream machine now has a new home and it has been used more often this summer than in the past 4 or 5 years since it has been purchased. And so project ice cream sandwich it was! Made in advance and appreciated by happy guests, it was the perfect dessert for this crowd!

My tip to you: plan ahead. It is nearly impossible to make ice cream in one day. Unless you own a commercial machine or blast chiller, time is your very best friend and most important ingredient. If you make a custard type ice cream, as in the recipes that follow, you will need a good solid 12 hours of chilling time once the custard is cooked. The churning vessel from your machine probably needs a good 24 hours in the freezer to freeze properly. Once your ice cream has churned, it benefits from spending another several hours in the freezer to solidify although it is ready to spoon on the cookies immediately. Once filled, the sandwiches will also need a bit of time in the freezer to firm up. The cookies should be made ahead as well. Although the cookie recipe I present to you is awesome and makes a huge batch, any favourite cookie recipe of your own collection will pair well with ice cream. Just remember that it is easier to eat a sandwich made with thin cookies… Then again, messes are fun too and cookies with ice cream are a match made in heaven regardless of the cookie flavour, thickness or size. Have fun! But beware, you may start something in your household that could result in begging for you to make more of and more often!

This post offers 3 recipes and each does not need the other to de devoured but magic sure happens when they are combined together! Making ice cream is not complicated but I will not sugar coat it:  it is a project that requires time and planning. The rest is as easy as making a batch of cookies and cooking a custard.

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Sweet stack

THIN CRISPY-CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Adapted from an original recipe by Martha Stewart

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Ingredient line-up
What you need

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups chocolate chips

How to make it

  1. Heat your oven to 350°F and line sheet with parchment paper
  2. Mix together flour, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar
  3. Beat butter until smooth. Add sugars and beat until combined and fluffy
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then vanilla until well blended
  5. Add flour and beat on low until just blended
  6. Add chocolate chips and beat until well combined
  7. Drop on cookie sheets, 2-3 tbsp of batter, (I use a medium ice cream scoop) and spread about inches apart. The high butter content of these cookies will make them spread a fair bit. It is best not to crowd your baking sheet.
  8. Flatten each mound slightly by wetting hands with cold water which will prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers
  9. Bake 12-16 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely.

Notes:

  • If the batter spreads too quickly in the oven and looks like the butter is oozing out, it is a sign that your oven is too hot. It is wise to invest in an oven thermometer as each oven has its own personality. Some ovens allow thermometer adjustments while others don’t. Exact oven temperature is more important when baking. Cooking or roasting are a temperature are a bit more forgiving. Manufacturers have online
  • Salted and unsalted butter can be used interchangeably, each offering a subtle flavour variation
  • This batch makes a ton of cookies, maybe 60 or so. You can shape the cookies and freeze the raw dough in individual portions, pulling out a few cookie «pucks» as needed and have freshly baked cookies on a whim.
  • The recipe can be halved
  • Once baked, the cookies can also be frozen
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    They can be individually frozen at this stage and pulled out when craving warm homemade chocolate chip cookies!
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Hard to resist…

VANILLA ICE CREAM

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Churned just right…
This recipe is based on a traditional custard type ice cream, which yields a super rich and unctuous frozen dessert. Because the base is cooked, it is best to prepare one day ahead and chill thoroughly overnight for best results.

To fill all the cookies, you will need 2 batches of ice cream. I opted for variety and made both chocolate and vanilla.

What you need

  • 1½ cups of heavy cream (whipping cream or 35% cream)
  • 2½ cups milk (avoid non fat milk)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 pod of fresh vanilla or 2 tsp real vanilla extract

How to make it

  1. If you are using a machine fitted with a liquid filled vessel, make sure you set it to freeze at least 24 hours before you need to churn your ice cream.
  2. Separate the egg yolks from the white. You can save the egg whites for another recipe such as meringue or egg white omelet. Egg whited freeze very well.
  3. Pour the cream and milk in a deep casserole with a heavy bottom, whisk in ¼ cup of the sugar and the salt.
  4. Split the vanilla pod in the center and using the tip of the knife, scrape the paste and whisk into the milk. Add in the leftover pod as well.
  5. On medium heat, cook until it starts to foam slightly on the edges, stirring frequently with a heat proof rubber spatula to ensure the milk doesn’t burn at the bottom.
  6. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the remaining ½ cup sugar until light and fluffy.
  7. Once the cream mixture has heated up, temper the egg yolks by slowly incorporating a bit of hot cream. To achieve this, make sure your bowl is secured onto your work surface. I like to settle my bowl onto a wet dishcloth. Using a whisk in one hand and a ladle in the other, vigorously whisk the eggs while incorporating a trickle of hot cream slowly but steadily. Proceed this way until half the milk has been incorporated into the eggs. The preparation should be smooth and grit free. If the preparation looks grainy or full of little lumps, you need to start again: it means the yolks have started cooking before emulsifying with the hot cream. Some like to use a stand-up mixer fitted with the whisk attachment which frees up their hand to control the addition of hot milk better. I find that taking my time and pouring just a bit of hot milk at a time works just as well. Chose a technique that better suit your needs.
  8. Once your eggs have been tempered with half of the hot milk, pour back into the casserole into the remaining hot cream while whisking.
  9. Cook over medium to medium-high heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and just about to start to bubble. Remove from heat immediately and pour over a fine mesh sieve into a heat proof bowl. Let cool slightly, cover the entire surface with plastic wrap of parchment paper to avoid the formation of a crust.
  10. Once cooled enough, chill in the fridge for a good 12 hours. You can reduce the chilling time by placing the custard in the freezer for a few hours: just remember to stir frequently to cool evenly.
  11. Churning: once the vessel is frozen solid and the custard completely chilled, set your ice cream to churn according to your appliance’s instructions. I own a Cuisinart and the machine is pretty straight forward: place custard in the vessel, add churning blade, cover and turn on. There are no other speeds. It takes about 30-35 minutes of churning.
  12. If you are making ice cream sandwiches, leave the ice cream in the churning vessel as you assemble your sandwiches. The vessel is still frozen enough to keep the ice cream from melting too quickly. Set an opened container in the freezer and build 1 or 2 sandwiches at a time, placing them in the freezer as soon as each is assembled
  13. If you do not plan on making ice cream sandwiches, then once the churning is completed, transfer the mixture to another container, cover the surface well with plastic wrap and set to freeze a little longer, maybe 3-4 hours more before serving. The plastic wrap prevents the formation of ice crystals on the surface of the ice cream and also prevents the ice cream from absorbing unwanted “freezer flavour”.

INTENSELY CHOCOLATEY ICE CREAM

The recipe is slightly different than the vanilla ice cream recipe.

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Chocolatey goodness!
What you need

  • 1½ cups of heavy cream (whipping cream or 35% cream)
  • 2½ cups milk (avoid non fat milk)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar, divided in 2
  • ½ cup dark cocoa powder*
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp real vanilla extract

*Since cocoa powder is the star ingredient in making a rich and chocolatey ice cream, I recommend a good splurge on a high quality cocoa.

How to make it

If you are using a machine fitted with a liquid filled vessel, make sure you set it to freeze at least 24 hours before you need to churn your ice cream.

  1. Separate the egg yolks from the white. You can save the egg whites for another recipe such as meringue or egg white omelet. Egg whited freeze very well.
  2. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, ½ cup of sugar, salt and 1 cup of milk until smooth, set aside
  3. Pour the cream and remaining milk in a deep casserole with a heavy bottom. Add vanilla
  4. On medium heat, cook until it starts to foam slightly on the edges, stirring frequently with a heat proof rubber spatula to ensure the milk doesn’t burn at the bottom.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the remaining ½ cup sugar until light and fluffy.
  6. Once the cream mixture has heated up, temper the egg yolks by slowly incorporating a bit of hot liquid. To achieve this, make sure your bowl is secured onto your work surface. I like to settle my bowl onto a wet dishcloth. Using a whisk in one hand and a ladle in the other, vigorously whisk the eggs while incorporating a trickle of hot cream slowly but steadily. Proceed this way until all the milk has been incorporated into the eggs. The preparation should be smooth and grit free. If the preparation looks grainy or full of little lumps, you need to start again: it means the yolks have started cooking before emulsifying with the hot cream. Some like to use a stand-up mixer fitted with the whisk attachment which frees up their hand to control the addition of hot milk better. I find that taking my time and pouring just a bit of hot milk at a time works just as well. Chose a technique that better suit your needs.
  7. Once your eggs have been tempered with half of the hot milk, pour back into the casserole into the remaining hot cream while whisking. Whisk in the cocoa/milk mixture.
  8. Cook over medium to medium-high heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and just about to start to bubble. Remove from heat immediately and pour over a fine mesh sieve into a heat proof bowl. Let cool slightly, cover the entire surface with plastic wrap of parchment paper to avoid the formation of a crust.
  9. Once cooled enough, chill in the fridge for a good 12 hours.You can reduce the chilling time by placing the custard in the freezer for a few hours: just remember to stir frequently to cool evenly.
  10. Churning: once the vessel is frozen solid and the custard completely chilled, set your ice cream to churn according to your appliance’s instructions. I own a Cuisinart and the machine is pretty straight forward: place custard in the vessel, add churning blade, cover and turn on. There are no other speeds. It takes about 30-35 minutes of churning.
  11. If you are making ice cream sandwiches, leave the ice cream in the churning vessel as you assemble your sandwiches. The vessel is still frozen enough to keep the ice cream from melting too quickly. Set an opened container in the freezer and build 1 or 2 sandwiches at a time, placing them in the freezer as soon as each is assembled
  12. If you do not plan on making ice cream sandwiches, then once the churning is completed, transfer the mixture to another container, cover the surface well with plastic wrap and set to freeze a little longer, maybe 3-4 hours more before serving. The plastic wrap prevents the formation of ice crystals on the surface of the ice cream and also prevents the ice cream from absorbing unwanted “freezer flavour”.

Epilogue: these ice cream sandwiches are huge! And although at first the sheer size of them light a spark of delight in the recipients’ eyes, we all agreed that a half went a long way to satisfy. Therefore, I recommend cutting in half before serving. And since we had both chocolate and vanilla to chose from, those with a really sweet tooth could enjoy a half of each, back to back.

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Ready for one last chill!

Dining at Beckta’s – A True Celebration!

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Penny Lane with Dragonsnap

The King and I kept promising to go one day… Beckta’s reputation has long been established as one of Ottawa’s finest dining establishment. Knowing we would want to indulge in the tasting menu with wine pairing, we kept pushing the visit for another time… When the water heater wouldn’t need replacing, when the cottage wouldn’t need some extra TLC, when the kids would not need a helping hand, when the car wouldn’t need major repairs… Basically, we were always pushing it away, waiting for that sudden extra bit of play money ready to be spent on one dinner, on one evening, on one of special day. Seems that moment had finally come, all wrapped-up in a beautiful bow called a birthday. My birthday. My darling man, knowing my penchant for gastronomy, truly gave me the best gift of all: a dinner event at Beckta’s! I must brag a bit about my King here because he is quite the guy, my true soul mate and best partner in life. He indulges me with my foodie obsessions! Although he rolls his eyes every time I whip out my phone to take «that great food shot», he is truly supportive of all the time I spend completely immersed in my blog and social network activities. He never, ever, ever questions my need to buy yet another cookbook… Then again he would be in a bad position to question these purchases: he is at the receiving end of my culinary experimentations! And lucky for me, not only can he appreciate a fine table and loves to go out to dinner, he has also become quite the amateur sommelier! I cook, he buys the wines (really, really good wines)… Many ask us the secret to our successful marriage: now you know 🙂  And now you know how much of a gift to both of us this evening at Beckta’s was: great food and great wines.

I was giddy with excitement when our dinner destination was revealed to me on Tuesday night. The King had been very secretive about the entire affair, shunning the list I had submitted to him earlier last week of restaurants I’ve had on my radar for special occcasions.I am pretty sure our waiter thought I was maybe a tad over the top excited? Maybe the few awkward moments gave it up? Like bumping into my chair, dropping silverware on the floor and using weird words that make no sense at all in the context… All that happening within 5 minutes of our arrival! Amazing what excitement can do!!! Yup, I get like that: take me to a fancy place and I lose complete control!Beckta Tasting Menu

I didn’t want the evening to start at all: starting meant it was going to end… Cocktails were ordered, which managed to stretch the moment a bit. I thoroughly enjoyed my Penny Lane, a concoction of mescal and hibiscus, amongst other things. That calmed me down enough to be able to grasp the meaning of the words written on the menu. While perusing the very minimalist tasting menu, it became clear that it would be impossible to mentally visualize each dish. Choosing the tasting menu meant giving up full control to the chef and his team. If at first I was a slightly unimpressed by the non-existent descriptive prose that normally entices the dinner to select a plate, I got to fully appreciate the mystery as each plate was served: not knowing meant not having pre-conceived expectations. The tasting menu offers 5 courses, 2 choices per course. We opted to take one of each deciding we would swap both wine and food half way through each course allowing us both to taste every single dish. And so the feast began…

In a nutshell, the entire meal was exquisite, each course thoughtfully planned and artistically executed. We had a bit of fun playing «Top Chef Judge» as we dove into each dish… We tried to find the correct words: texture, umami, balanced, well composed dish, unusual combination of flavours… We even dared a few critics although we felt maybe the palate required for such an analysis was out of our league. Then again, maybe not… The drop dead “there are no words to describe” winners of our 10 plate extravaganza (5 each) were these 3: Pork Belly & Octopus, Braised Oxtail Croquette and Caramel Sundae. At the other end of the scale, we both thought the Scallop Crudo was missing a little something like salt or acidity. And we even ventured far enough to say that maybe the radish overpowered the delicate taste of the scallop. I was slightly disappointed to see salmon on the menu, a bit of a humdrum fish when so many other options are available… Yet it was beautifully prepared and it will be difficult to eat salmon again without comparing it to this one. The King didn’t gel much (pun intended) with the rhubarb jelly served with the panna cotta yet I found it light and refreshing. The wines served with each course were off the wall in a good way; a thoughtfully curated list of beautiful wines which are sadly not available for purchase by the common mortal. I fell in love with a white wine from the Greek island of Santorini (yeah, who knew!!!) and we were both enchanted with another white from Niagara as well as a “port like” red from France.

This evening at Beckta’s was well worth the wait. To describe each dish in details here would be a disservice to you; Beckta is an experience that needs to be lived not read about. The venue is spectacular, the décor is gorgeous and the food is divine. I have never had the pleasure of dining in a Michelin Star restaurant and I wonder how much more spectacular it would be compared to Beckta’s… I bet you it is not that far a stretch…

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Spring Vegetables
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Rabbit Consommé
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Scallop Crudo
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Matane Shrimp
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Foie Gras Torchon

Final note: pictures were taken of each course. As the sun slowly disappeared and the room’s lights dimmed dramatically, it became difficult to take beautiful pictures. The last few shots didn’t turn out well enough to share. I hope you enjoy this tiny peek at the first half of our dinner…

Beckta
150 Elgin Street
Ottawa ON K2P 1L4
(613) 238-7063

 

A sincere  and heartfelt thank you!

To all of you, my readers and followers. I truly appreciate the views, the followings, the comments, the likes and the shares. I have not figured out yet how to welcome a new reader or follower in a personal way otherwise, each and everyone of you would have received a welcome to my blog note. It is very exciting to see my readership grow. What is even more thrilling is to see the different countries some of my readers are connecting from: that is really, really cool!!! Being a French Canadian living in Ottawa, our Nation’s capital, I never expected to spark an interest with a reader clicking in from Nigeria, Saudi Arabia or Peru for instance. Even if I am attracted to food bloggers from across the world, I never even thought others could be interested in my heritage as well. So, so cool!

So to all of you who read my little blog, whether it be faithfully or sporadically, I thank you sincerely ❤️

A Celebration of Old Classics: Chicken, Asparagus and Gruyère Crêpes

Harvesting Dinner is barely two years old and I have enjoyed writing every single post!While I jumped in blindly with little direction, knowing only that I wanted to share my insane attraction to our edible world by writing recipes, telling little stories about my life, sharing the joys of eating out or the effects of eating too much, I didn’t know what personality this little diary of mine would take on. If I were to choose a new name, I may be tempted to select something like “Heritage Kitchen”, “Legacy Cooking” or “A Mother’s Pantry”, which would surely better capture the essence of this blog… I seem to gravitate towards heirloom recipes and stories; I am inherently attracted to the cooking of the mothers in my life… I love the mixed heritage of my kitchen where French Canadian, French (from France) and East European all collide with international cuisines! And I am deeply rooted to my family’s origins through the traditions and knowledge these humble home cooks have imparted on me. In my home, I tend to prepare the simple yet comforting dishes of everyday cooking when a budget needs to be respected and time is often elusive. Although I have the expertise to take on intricate recipes and I do enjoy cooking elaborate meals from time to time, this type of cooking does not portray what goes on in my everyday kitchen which is the one I share with you most often. I will seldom post dishes that require extremely elaborate preparations within this blog unless I decide to share a culinary experience that is well worth it. As simple as it is, my cooking is no less inviting: it is all about awesomely good food, warm & comforting, served with love and abundance, to enjoy in the presence of people who truly matter. Whether it is a simple weeknight tête-à-tête with the King , a small gathering of the family or a grand celebration, I aim to serve foods that beg for seconds and “take home” care packages. I also like to «be» with my peeps at mealtime and I will favour dishes that can be prepared ahead so that I am free to partake in all the conversations that are happening at the dinner table. I am definitely the queen of one pot dinners, of tough pieces of meat bubbling away  softly in a fragrant broth until they render their full potential and fall off the fork tender. I love simmered dishes the most: those that fill the house with mouth-watering aromas for hours until you can’t stand it any longer and must dig in. I also enjoy the carefree approach to summer grilling paired with fresh produces enhanced with perfectly balanced vinaigrettes.

I do favour simple cooking over intricate, that is for sure.  Yet, simple does not necessarily mean quick! There are times when you just need to soak things overnight, simmer all day or spread the prep over a day or two… The time spent preparing a meal is not a reflection of how difficult the recipe is; it simple means that the recipe requires a bit more planning. For me, simple cooking also means familiar: food prepared with “easy to find” ingredients (not too many) that are budget friendly. I love old classics and appreciate having been taught the rudiments of French cuisine: I can whip up a great hollandaise, make my own mayo, serve a silky smooth sabayon and bake bread. And although I often refer back to recipes for proportion, especially when it comes to baking, I can make a bechamel sauce without even taking a peek into a book!

One classic preparation I am particularly thrilled I have learned to master are crêpes; they are so versatile! They really are easy to make: the most difficult part of making crêpes (if one can call this difficult) is knowing how much batter to pour into the pan to ensure the right thickness and size. It really isn’t that hard: I always mess up the first one which I am sure I subconsciously do on purpose so that I can eat a hot crêpe right away!!! There are many things I love about crêpes: they can be done in advance, they can be sweet or savoury, they can be served hot or cold, they can be filled, rolled or drenched in syrups, whatever your fancy! They are neutral enough to be a perfect vehicle to an infinite combinations of ingredients yet are just as delicious sprinkled lightly with sugar… What matters most to make really great crêpes is time: the batter really needs to “relax” in the fridge for several hours, preferably overnight. It only takes about 10 minutes to whip a batter up in a food processor or a blender and just a tiny bit longer if you have to whisk everything by hand. What takes the longest is the cooking time as each crêpe must be done individually. There are pans that are specifically designed to make crêpes and they work extremely well. However, any good old frying pan you have on hand will do. I made crêpes for decades before I splurged and bought a crêpe pan…

This savoury crêpe recipe I am about to share with you is a long time family classic. It does require planning and involves several steps but none of them are difficult. What I like best about this particular recipe is that it can be prepared entirely in advance AND the ingredients are easy to find. Simply pop it in the oven one hour before serving. Pair with a nice crisp salad and you have a festive meal that will make your guests very happy!

I recently made this dish and took the opportunity to take plenty of pictures at every stage. Then our guests arrived and ya know, we got into cocktails and instant conversation… I was way too happy being with my friends than hidden in the kitchen and not only did I completely forget to set my timer, I also forgot to check in on the crêpes! A lovely intense smell of melted Gruyère eventually got my attention and as a result, I over baked the crêpes by a good 35 minutes. The verdict? Although the crêpes were still very delicious, they had absorbed most of the sauce. I hesitated to add the final picture because it should be much saucier but then I figured that mistakes happen even with the best of techniques and planning. So expect a saucier dish if you decide to make this recipe: that is how it should be 🙂

Chicken, Asparagus and Gruyère Crêpes

This recipe serves 4 and can easily be doubled (I always double, left overs are great!)

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The result of overbaking: a little «dry» yet still delicious

 

Part 1 – Crêpe Batter

What you need:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (250ml)
  • 1 cup milk (250ml)
  • 1/2 cup water (maybe a bit more) (125ml)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (2.5ml)
  • 2 tbsp melted butter (30ml) plus 1/4 cup (65ml) melted butter for cooking

How to make it:

  1. Using a food processor, blend together the eggs, flour, milk, water and salt until well blended. With motor still running, pour in the melted butter and whip until well blended.
  2. Transfer batter in a jug or a bowl, cover and refrigerate 2 to 12 hours.
  3. Making the crêpes: strain the batter using a small sieve to remove any lumps. The batter should be silky smooth. Add  water if the batter is too thick, a little bit at a time: it should have the consistency of buttermilk or hollandaise.
  4. Heat a wide pan over medium-high heat. Using a pastry brush, coat the pan with a small film of butter. Drop about 1/2 cup of batter in the pan spreading quickly by tilting the pan in a swirl motion. How to video, click here
  5. Once all your crêpes are done, set them aside. You can stack crêpes in a plate, they will not stick together. Crêpes can also be done a day ahead and refrigerated : simply wrap very well with plastic wrap to avoid drying and refrigerate. Crêpes also do well in the freezer for a few weeks.image

Part 2 – Chicken and asparagus filling

What you need

  • 2 large chicken breast, with skin and bones
  • 1 onion, peeled and left whole
  • 2 carrots, peeled and left whole
  • 3 celery branches, with leaves if possible
  • 2 bay eaves
  • 1 tbsp salt (15ml)
  • 1 tsp pepper (5ml)
  • 1 large bunch of asparagus
  • 2 shallots finely chopped (or 1/2 cooking onion)
  • 1/4 cup butter (65ml)
  • 1/4 cup flour (65ml)
  • 4 cups milk (1l)
  • 1 tsp salt (5ml)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper (fine grind)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, 35% (180ml)
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère* cheese (500ml)

*Swiss cheese will do but Gruyère really takes it to the next level… If you can splurge 🙂

How to make it

  1. Cook the chicken: In a large stock pot, place chicken, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Add just enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a full boil on high heat, then reduce heat and cook over a gentle boil, partially covered. the chicken should take about 30-40 minutes to cook through.
  2. Remove the chicken from the broth and let cool before removing the skin and bones.
  3. Meanwhile, discard the celery and onion from broth. Remove the carrots and set aside. Strain the broth in a fine mesh sieve. Return carrots to broth and save for another time. The broth will not be needed in this recipe
  4. Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove skin and bones. Chop meat into cubes: this should yield 3-4 cups of chicken (750-1000ml). This variation will not impact the recipe much. Refrigerate
  5. Set a pot to boil filled with plenty of salted water
  6. Chop the shallots and grate the cheese
  7. Prepare the asparagus: clean well snap off the hard woody part off the stem, normally a lighter green that the rest of the asparagus. Cut asparagus in pieces about 1 inch long (2-3cm). Once the water is at a full rolling boil, add the asparagus. They will cook very quickly. I find that they are done once the water reaches the boiling point again, usually 3-4 minutes. As soon as the water starts boiling again, strain the asparagus and immediately immerse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Change the water frequently until the asparagus have cooled, strain and reserve.
  8. Make the bechamel sauce: in a mid-size saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until it starts to foam slightly. Add the shallots (or onions) and cook until translucent 1-2 minutes. Add the flour and stir well, cooking for an additional 23 minutes. The only trick here is that you want the flour to cook without browning. Slowly start pouring in the milk, whisking well as you incorporate. I usually add about half first, whisk well and then pour in the rest. To avoid lumps, it is best to use cold milk. Because this bechamel has shallots in it, you will not be able to strain it to remove the lumps. Add salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Continue whisking over medium heat until the sauce reaches a soft boil and it has started to thicken. Remove from heat, whisk in the heavy cream. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap by sticking directly onto the sauce to prevent a crust from forming. Set aside to cool.image

Assembly:

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This is a double batch
  1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, the asparagus, 1 cup of cheese and just enough bechamel (about half) to moisten the preparation.image
  2. If you plan on baking right away, preheat oven to 350F.
  3. Butter the sides and bottom of a large casserole dish, like a lasagna dish for example. If you do not own a large dish, use two smaller ones.
  4. Spread the filling evenly between each crêpe. Roll by first folding the left and right side towards the middle, then rolling to close. Place the crêpes seam down in the baking dish. Do not stack crêpes on top of one another: if you run out of room, it is best tu use a second baking dish.image
  5. Spread the remaining bechamel evenly over the crêpes, sprinkle with cheeseimage
  6. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until the cheese starts to take on a golden hue and bubbles lightly at the edges
  7. Let sit 10 minutes before serving

Notes:

  • The baking time may need to be increased slightly if the crêpes have been refrigerated
  • The entire dish can be prepared a day in advance, which makes it a great party dish!
  • This dish also freezes very well: freeze in individual portions for easy weeknight dinnersimage

 

Avocado Buttermilk Dressing

Ohhhh just another recipe ok? This one is quick and easy. I am home nursing my little me, waiting for antibiotics to take effect;  a bit of an impromptu day of R&R allowing me some play time on my blog between naps! YAY!!!

What is this gorgeous electric green creamy liquid? It is  Avocado Buttermilk Dressing! It is really oooooohhhh and aaaaaahhhh worthy! This is a no non-sense recipe and super quick to execute  if you have everything on hand, such as a ripe avocado!!! Grab your favourite squisher/pulverizing tool: power blender, Nutribullet™, food processor, it don’t matter. Throw in the flesh of 1 avocado (peeled and stoned of course), ½ cup buttermilk (or: yogurt, kefir, nut milk, you get the drift), 2 tbsp good oil, 1 medium garlic clove, the juice of one juicy lime (use 2 if the limes are juice stingy), a handful of fresh cilantro, stems and all, plus salt and pepper. Crank the power on until smoooooothhhh. You can add water if it’s too thick to pour. Ta da! I will be smothering my shrimps and salad with this hot number. Or dipping my crudités in it. Or dropping by the spoonful over tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas… Olé!

Surprisingly enough, this dressing will keep about 5 days in the fridge without browning…

Avocado Buttermilk Dressing
Avocado Buttermilk Dressing

 

Navarra on Murray: an Ottawa Culinary Destination

For our eldest Prince’s birthday, and upon his suggestion, we went to celebrate at Navarra’s on Murray. As a culinary school (and nearly graduate) student, it seemed befitting to give our first born carte blanche on his choice of a good Ottawa table.  For a girl who is always snooping the Ottawa foodies scene, I am almost embarrassed to admit I HAD NO idea that this place is what it is! Top Chef Canada Season 4 winner, Rene Rodriguez, is Navarra’s Executive Chef. Really? How did I not know that a Top Chef winner was actually operating a restaurant in my home town??? Shame on me LOL. I have not kept up with Top Chef because I don’t have a PVR and I normally go to bed at the gawd awful hour of 9:30pm… I know, I know, such a party animal!!!

Back to the subject under review here and enough about my old person’s sleeping habits. Navarra is a real, true and true, culinary experience. It is what you see on TV shows and hope to have the opportunity to someday «try something like that»… It is the type of restaurant you would expect to find in Montreal, Toronto, New York for instance… Yet, here it is, right in downtown good old Ottawa!!! Yes, dining at such a fine establishment is a real luxury and I am grateful life has me in a spot I can partake in such pleasures. Navarra is completely off the wall: intricate dish composition, unusual yet successful ingredient pairings, spectacular plate artistry and top shape service make this tiny little stop on the Byward market one of the most memorable culinary experience we have had in recent years. In recent months, we have discovered several really, really exquisite little gems of restaurants here in the Nation’s Capital (I have unfinished reviews of these spots still to come). But Navarra is one of those places, in my absolute humble opinion, that is in a league of its own… I am surprised not to see 5 star ratings across the board on online review sites. Maybe this type of cuisine doesn’t suit every palate? I am not saying this in a condescending way either: to enjoy the dishes of Navarra, I think you have to be an adventurous diner. If the simple thought of chomping on rabbit, octopus and pig’s cheek make you queasy, then for sure your experience will not end up being the same as mine. In order for a restaurant evening to be entirely successful, the guest must feel the meal met the palate’s preferences and expectations.

Now what about each particular dish we had the pleasure of dining on and nearly licking every single morsel of the plates? I could write colorful and vivid descriptions of each one but I think the fare at Navarra needs to be experienced, not described in a lengthy blog post… In a nutshell, it was all F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S.! We each ordered 2 sharing plates which were brought to us in a perfectly synchronized order. As I have already mentioned, the service was stellar: each dish delivered with a great description of what we were about to dive into.

The Prince’s birthday dinner menu:

  • Confit Rabbit Chilaquiles
  • Ceviche de Vieiras
  • Patatas a la Rioja
  • Carbonara Pasta
  • Deviled Pig “Buffalo Cheeks”
  • Pulpo Gallego
  • Dark Chocolate Coulant
  • Dulce de Leche Mousse

If the boys really had to pick their top faves, they would oscillate between the Pig Cheeks and the Carbonara but then would feel bad about leaving all the others out of the lead. As for me, I think my biggest crush competing fiercely with the Pig Cheeks was the Confit Rabbit. I found the Carbonara extremely tasty as well but a bit over the top “too rich”, which is what won the King and the Prince over. To each’s own!!! The order of delivery was fantastic as well: the ceviche was served in between 2 rich and bold flavoured plates and acted as a true palate cleanser. Although I thought I really couldn’t fit another bite in after such delectable tapas, dessert was offered and ordered…  I will tell you this: I usually decline partaking in sweet endings as savoury courses are more my thing but the Dulce de Leche Mousse, OMG!!! I will be craving this dessert sure. Like right now! Actually, as I am writing this, I am craving the entire dinner! It really was that good.

So go ahead and splurge here at Navarra, it is without a doubt 100% worth it! Standing ovation for chef Rene Rodriguez and his crew!

 

 

 

 

Das Lokal on Dalhousie – Das Ist Gut!!!

The King and I love to go out and explore restaurants in the surrounding Kingdom. My perfect week includes a lot of playtime in the kitchen AND gallivanting the Ottawa foodies scene. The King shows patience when I pull my phone out to take pictures but I can tell he finds this practice a touch amusing if not slightly annoying, especially when he is really hungry and just wants to dig in!  I therefore  often refrain myself from capturing plate art, but not always… Sadly, when I actually do decide to take pictures, they often do not turn out very well and poor light is often to blame. I find using a flash distorts the true colours of the food. Not having pictures to share is the main reason I have not posted more restaurant reviews on this blog. Since we visit restaurants regularly, I feel I should make a better effort at sharing our experiences. Ottawa has evolved drastically over the last 2 decades. Although the city still has more pubs than it really needs, there is emerging culinary talent that is not afraid to showcase bold gastronomy. Ottawa is reaching beyond the stuffy steakhouses and the limp nachos!

Das Lokal is exactly that: bold, big, creative flavours! It is not your typical German “Gastshaus” although the Germanic influence can be felt throughout  the menu. Hand crafted marinades, preserves, charcuteries and cheeses really shine here; the menu is big on meats. Young, hip and fresh, it offers an interesting “nouveau” twist on very traditional German cuisine. Even with some very liberal interpretations of traditional Deutschland fare, the King found it pretty darn cool and so did I! The charcuteries were outstanding. The Das Lokal Board is offered at $19 for 3 items but of course, you may add as many more as you wish. To calm our ravenous appetites, we opted for a complete smorgasbord of every type of meat and cheese they were offering that evening. I strongly encourage you do the same as it was the star of the meal. The meats, paired with well-balanced homemade jams and pickles, were extremely well executed, particularly the cured duck breast. Since the charcuterie board  was rather massive, we opted for two dishes from the appetizer menu as our main entrées. Hubby took the sausage board with warm sauerkraut and mustard tomato jam ($14) to which he added an order of butter and cheddar Spaetzle ($9): we both felt the sausages and the soft buttery dumplings were a home run. I ordered the Zwiebel Kuchen ($14), an caramelized onion and leek tart served with arugula salad. It reminded me of the famous Alsatian onion tart  I absolutely adore; although the tart was a fierce competitor to the beloved Rhine valley specialty, I felt the tomato sauce was a bit of a clash… But I am nit-picking here as the entire meal was spot on: delicious, served hot & fresh, abundant and satisfying. You can taste the pride of the craftsman in each dish. Only the sauerkraut left us a bit indifferent: coming from a family of sauerkraut makers, we have very strong opinions on what makes a great one! We both felt maybe the chef was trying too hard to make this dish his own at the expense of the true nature of salted fermented cabbage… Although it was good,  it lacked some of the “brininess” that make sauerkraut, well, sauerkraut!

The service was equally charming and efficient. As for the ambiance, well it is a tiny spot and the tables are crammed in close proximity to one another. Having said that, we found it tastefully decorated, cozy & inviting and although it seemed the next table was close enough to be part of our own little bubble, somehow we never felt that they were infringing in our space. Maybe the live piano entertainment had a role to play in muting conversations between tables, I can’t say… But we felt very intimate in our little space, enjoying each other’s company as much as the melodies offered by a very talented piano man.

We were slightly surprised at the very limited beer selection; I think beer is to Germany what wine is to Italy and France. Could be that lack of space at the bar might be the reason for the minimalist beer menu. Overall though, our visit at Das Lokal was more than enjoyable. We have recommended to many friends and we are looking forward to return in the very near future.

Das Lokal 2

House Sausages with potatoes, sauerkraut and buttery cheddar Spaetzle
House Sausages with potatoes, sauerkraut and buttery cheddar Spaetzle
Onion tart with arugula salad
Onion tart with arugula salad