Monday, December 19, 2011

Liberty, Liberte

I've come to the realization that it might be a long time before I have a deep, meaningful, sensual, intimate relationship with a man.

In the meantime, I've compiled a weekly grocery list of food and drink so I can keep my palete alive during my dry spell.

I've convinced myself that each week it is, in my situation, reasonable to purchase:

1 bottle of J. Lohr wine
1 container of Liberte lemon yogurt
1 bar of Lindt Madagascar vanilla chocolate
1 block of Emmanuel cheese
1 ethically raised, fresh out of the smoker chorizo sausage
1 box of Mary's gluten free crackers.....

Ok, ok, the list continues. My mind started running tonight, as I was curled up on the couch in my granny's woollen blanket, indulging in Liberte lemon yogurt, Mediterranean style, 7%. It is orgasmic - so thick that you simply need to skip your spoon along the top of the container. The yogurt will gather in soft waves, and will cling to the spoon while twirled.

If you do try it, make sure to twirl the spoon. It adds to the effect, and therefore the taste.

Liberte yogurt is so... succulent. The raw yogurt is perfect for recipes - it makes an excellent addition to curry, and provides a fine base for tzitziki. But what's unique about Liberte is their ability to pair particular fruits with their original yogurt. This is precisely where the lemon Liberte stole my heart.

The lemon Liberte is made up of the original plain yogurt, with a lemon zest rippled fruit bottom. The tartness of the lemon, with a dash of sugar and the original milk+cream combination of the plain yogurt marry in your mouth. It feels good. It feels fine. I'm just about to lose my mind.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Open House

Growing up, the concept of an open house meant one thing, and one thing only - the house had a big old "for sale" sign on the front lawn, and strangers were welcomed in by the real estate agent to take a look at a perspective home. Sometimes my parents and I would wander into these open houses on a Sunday afternoon, if such house happened to be in the neighbourhood. I never really questioned the antics of my folks; I suppose it was to get decorating ideas and keep an eye on the market. I loved seeing the inside of houses, especially living rooms and kitchens. But there was always something eerie about an open house that as a child, I couldn't quite put my finger on.

The houses were open, but the people were closed.

I don't remember one single open house where the inhabitants were actually there, telling prospective home owners about the history of the home, or what the house meant to them and their families, or why they were moving. The most important part of the house was simply.... absent.

Tonight I went to my first, grown-up open house where the family wasn't leaving. In fact, upon asking them if they'd entertain the idea of moving (since their daughter, a close colleague of mine, has moved out), they told me with fervent attestation that they would never move. They live in a beautiful 6.5, a gorgeous brownstone walk-up on Jeanne Mance, right in the golden square mile of Montreal. My friend has lived in this home, a co-op, ever since she was adopted at two months old.

Each year, her and her family make about 20 different dishes from scratch, and several dessert trays as well. There were many options for me as a gluten-free guest, and even one special tray of carmel marshmallow squares. But what touched me most about the evening was spending a few hours in the apartment, envisioning what it will be like to raise children one day in an urban environment.

When I was growing up, I didn't have any close friends from Toronto. We were all suburbia kids. In order to get from place to place, we hopped in each other's minivans, went to MacDonalds and hit up the mall. We went back to our homes for dinner, and didn't walk alone after dark. We were sheltered.

Life in the city isn't as clean or quiet. You'll find a million unique characters living in a million different spaces. But if you open your mind and your heart, you're sure to find a supportive and caring community to depend upon.

An open house is the home of lovely people.

Monday, September 5, 2011

In with the new....

My goal for August upon my arrival home from India: to gain back the eight pounds I lost while backpacking for the month, and to do so with a gluttonous appetite. The "India" diet left me feeling weak and waif-ish. I got started right away at the Healthrow airport, spending fifty quid on British chocolate at the duty free shop, and then a charming airplane dinner date with an investment banker from Dubai. British Airways philosophizes like Porter - the food's not bad and the wine is free.

Ten days in Oshawa were spent with my amazing mom, enjoying red wine in wicker porch chairs, driving into Toronto to buy live lobster, whipping up chunky guacamole, makin' ribs in the slow cooker with bbq sauce and a can of coke, thrown on the hot grill right before consumption for a touch of crisp.

The three hour dinner became a routine part of our day, and needless to say, my hips reappeared. I was actually feeling a little bummed out about returning to Montreal, going back to work and having less time for indulgence. But the party has only just begun. Montreal hosts the best street festivals towards the end of summer. The city is alive and on fire and so is my attitude.

I made a trip up to Jean Talon with Chesley to get some ingredients for canning week. The bounty of the market is exceptional at this time of year. Peaches. Tomatoes. Basil.

There are three salsas and three marmalade variations on the list: salsa verte, peach salsa and salsa taquera... and for the marmies..... seville orange, grapefruit and lemon, strawberry and lime.

Hell yeah.

We christened the house with a fabulous birthday party for Steve. My chocolate cake got rave reviews, and glistened with des petits fruits and Bailey's creme fouette. 

I got my groove back.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I conclude, after six months of emptiness, that cooking is no fun alone.

I throw things together in a frying pan and hope they come out alright. This one did - mushrooms, green onions and Stilton.

I tried to get Mike to eat Stilton on Saturday night. He hated it - he told me the after taste resembled poop. This kind of turned me off the Stilton for the evening, which I was eating with baked Lays. The grocery store below my new apartment doesn't carry rice crackers.  Some things are going to have to change....

Mike made me a rack of New Zealand free range lamb and I made garlic mashed. Mike doesn't buy real butter.

Mike, if you read this, you need to buy real butter.

My pictures of Montreal are probably better then the food pics. I wandered aimlessly around in the rain and shot with my Canon rebel. I arrived two minutes past six to the Cafe Rico and they shut. I pushed my nose up against the screen but they wouldn't let me in. My nose was wet and cold, and so was I, and I wanted to buy rice crackers but people in the Plateau only like artisan breads woven in different shapes and only to be cut and served at home.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Voila! Some photos from an amazing sushi night this past July, as Dan and I were traveling through British Columbia. Kelowna, B.C. was our first stop, where we stayed for five days lakeside at our friend's wonderful apartment. Although we wined and dined downtown at Kelowna's finest (The Rotten Grape had a fabulous gluten-free pizza crust), I asked if at some point during the visit we could make sushi and we did, as a celebration of sorts, on our final night.

Gluten-free tempura - sea scallops,
sweet potato and asperagus
Balsamic Shitake Mushrooms
Sashimi from The Codfather 

The fresh pacific salmon found out in BC is a darker colour, richer and tastier. We bought our salmon and tuna sushi grade at The Codfather, the best fresh fish store in the city according to our hosts. During my last trip out west, a road trip up the coast of California, I toured, wined and dined at Francis Ford Coppola's vineyards. A pattern seems to be emerging here.

Although I'm primarily a red wine drinker, usually ignoring proper pairings, we had a couple of bottles of The Summerhill Vineyard's Ehrenfelser, with notes of honeysuckle, orange blossom, cantelope and peach.

We bought rice flour from the local grocery story and were able to whip up gluten-free tempura. Tempura is one of the main reasons why I now enjoy making sushi at home with friends instead of eating out. When those crunchy shrimp arrive at a restaurant, sizzling straight from the deep fryer and enveloped in glutenous batter, well, it's a little hard to handle. So we do it - fait maison.

Here's the recipe for gluten-free tempura. Don't be fooled - a deep fryer is unnecessary!

1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon of baking soda and baking powder
The final product, with Okanagan wine
pinch of salt
1 egg
2/3 cup of ice water (the water must be ice cold - it functions as the binding agent in both gluten-free and glutenous tempura recipes)
Vegetable oil - enough for two inches at the bottom of the pan

You also need patience. Deep frying without a deep fryer can yield delicious treats, but be careful.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl suitable for dipping your vegetables or seafood in. Add the egg and ice water. Heat your oil in a wok or deep frying pan until the oil is hot but not spurting all over the place! Using tongs, dip each piece of veg or seafood in the batter, coating generously, and fry on each side for about 1 minute.

I like to keep all my tempura hot on a low temperature in the oven until all the sushi has been made. This works well when you have guests over for dinner so you don't have to be standing at the stove all night long.

*The shitake mushrooms featured in this blog entry are also fantastic, but I have to make them again (this weekend) before I post the recipe! They were AMAZING in sushi rolls.... TBA....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A friend from university once told me that the ability to humour one's self is priceless. I think she put it as simply as this: "you know so-and-so? They're hilarious! They can really crack themselves up". That was the expression she used, to crack yourself up.

At this time, I didn't really understand what she meant. I suppose that the concept of humour for me came always as an interpretation of outside forces, exterior situations to be reckoned with. But over time I began to understand what she really meant. People who can find amusement in the comicality of their present moment whilst recognizing that their contribution is clever or absurd or just entertaining to them even if it entertains no other party... well, these people have a pretty special gift.

Side note - I have a grade 8 student who cracks herself up all the time. It's fantastic, even when the rest of us just don't understand.

Leading a gluten free lifestyle has allowed me to somehow develop my own capacity to find lightness in the most frustrating of situations. This took awhile though, because for the first year, at restaurants and grocery stores and friend's houses, I was much more focused on getting myself through a menu, the weekly list or a meal without getting fed up or being rude. But now that most of the cravings are gone, and my friends and family understand the basics, I can wander out and find myself in the most unlikely places - I'm becoming braver.

For example, I recently ate at McDonald's. This wasn't my intention, trust me, but I found myself ravenous at the Alexis Nihon Plaza about a month ago. I know the McDonald's Angus Burger is 100% beef, and the fries are gluten free, so instead of dropping 15 or 20 bucks on sushi, I paid a visit to the golden arches. I asked for my burger to be served sans pain, and found myself face to face with a stupefied sixteen-year-old. I quickly offered my explanation - I just have an allergy. I only want the burger, all the toppings please, no bun. It took four McDonald's employees (including the manager) and ten minutes for them to figure out they could serve it to me in an empty salad container.

I'm not trying to make a point here that McDonald's employees are sub par in terms of intelligence - I have a friend who is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at McGill in pure mathematics. When he was in high school, he worked for McDonald's. After many hours of tedious flipping, he noticed that the beef patties were not efficiently placed on the grill. He took it upon himself to reorganize the patty placement to maximize space. His boss was so impressed that he wrote to Mickie D's national headquarters with the new formula, which was accepted and adapted all over America. Quite evidently, "one billion served" is directly contributed to my friend Mark.

On Friday night, the eve of my 25th birthday, I took the bus to Costco in Verdun to pick up a prime rib roast for my 2nd annual gluten free birthday potluck. There was nobody else on the bus, and the bus driver appeared surprised when I asked to be dropped at the door of the king of bulk foods. "Tu vas..... à Costco?". "Oui, comme là là". I motioned across the street. He shrugged and drove off.

Note - I'm the first person in the history of Costco to ever take the bus.

I walked up towards the entrance. As I was awaiting my brother to arrive by bike (he's the one with the golden ticket - the Costco membership), I watched SUV after SUV swankily pull into the enormous parking lot. I tried reading my book but my mind was too focused on three main things - the prime rib roast, the 750 grams of Balderson sharp Canadian cheddar and the last bus home from Costco that I had to be on in 45 minutes.

Mike finally arrived and we got down to business. We were both starving, him stuck without $1.00 for a jumbo hot dog at the cash-only restaurant inside and me, well, stuck with all the gluten options the restaurant had to offer.

Despite his mild embarrassment, I opened a jar of mixed nuts for us to dig into.

Upon paying, the kind lady at the cash asked me how many boxes I'd like. I replied none, thank you, and pointed towards the 60-litre traveling pack my brother had brought for me. And at this very moment, again came the blank stare that I saw a couple weeks at McDonalds. I can only imagine what was running through the cashier's mind - "the girl is leaving tonight to tour South America with a prime rib roast, chicken breasts, three pounds of cheese, one pound of nuts, and one box of Cliff Bars".

Side note - Cliff Bars, with all their substantial forms of protein and deliciousness (I remember) are not gluten free due to...... malt extract. That's ALL! Damn it.

I paid, took out cash-back so Mike could get a jumbo wiener, and was hurrying to pack my bag and catch that last bus. By this point, my brother (who looked like he'd been without food for a couple of days and was drifting towards the food line) remembered his lonely bag of limes, his sole Costco purchase of the evening.

"Kristen! You can't go! We have to go out together! They'll ask for my receipt, and I don't have one for the limes!"

I told him to shove those limes in this backpack. I had to hit the road.

"They'll check my bag! They'll go in it!"

He was acting the way my students do when I ask them for their locker combinations at the beginning of the school year. Luckily, he's 23 and not 13, and at the absurdity of the situation we both burst out laughing. Still hungry but in high spirits, I caught my bus, arrived home around 7:30 and made myself a quick fish and quinoa salad dinner.

The next evening, we all had a blast. Check out what my friends and brother now know about Celiac Disease a year and a half after my diagnosis.



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pain Doré on a Sunday.....

This past Sunday marked the end of my summer. I think it also marked the beginning of Dan's quest for freedom, hippiedom, and other literal and figurative forms of following a new path in life.

Last Sunday morning (upon arriving late into Montreal from le bapteme Floralie
in Quèbec City), at approximately 2:45a.m., Dan left for Burning Man. I arose five hours later to a quiet, empty apartment and the sinking realization that I had to return to work Monday morning after a glorious eight week vacation.

I was rather tired from a boyfriend keeping me awake into the wee hours of the night packing his allotted weight in preparation for 8 days in the Black Rock Desert, so I groggily ground myself enough Café Mariani beans for a triple shot latté and got to work. I'm one of those lucky people that can get up on a Sunday and clean the entire house (or 600 square foot apartment...) while working up an appetite for a Sunday brunch. After the new place (pictures on Facebook) was looking prim and proper, I looked in my fridge to see what could be whipped up.

There was no bacon, and I really wanted bacon - especially since "flexatarian" Dan was gone (the concept of flexatarianism requires its own post - TBA, I promise), there was nobody kickin' around St. Henri to chastise me for my porky desires. Meg and my brother would approve through and through, and I was expecting at least one of them to show up for brunch. But alas, there was no bacon, and I was still feeling tired and lazy - too lethargic to walk the ten minutes it takes to get to the Atwater Market and purchase a half pound.

I scrounged through the fridge to see what I could put together, and realized I had all the ingredients to make a killer peach-goat cheese french toast. De-lish. The best part about this breakfast delicacy is that you can dip the gluten-free bread in first, make your French toast, put it in the oven to keep it warm, and THEN.... are you ready for this? Then you can dip in regular bread (for gluten eating peoples) and use the same frying pan. Obviously it won't get contaminated. Isn't that just incredible?

Well now. I think it is.

My brother was the one that ended up coming, and he was astonished at how much pain doré I could consume. I ate four pieces right along with him. He surprised me by requesting goat's cheese on his as well. We drizzled honey, maple syrup and my homemade raspberry jam over all of it. Talk about lush.

Here's the recipe that makes about 8 slices.....

3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla - I made the vanilla you see in the picture by distilling three Madagascar vanilla beans in a 200 mL bottle of Absolute Vodka. This ensures it is gluten-free.
1/2 cup of 2% milk
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
8 slices of bread
butter - for the pan and the french toas
2 thinly sliced peaches
crumbled goat cheese
honey, maple syrup, jam varieties....

Mix your eggs and milk together in a bowl with a large surface area. Add your vanilla and spices to the mix. Soak your bread in this mix, ensuring each slice absorbs a generous amount of mixture. If you have leftover mixture, you can pour it directly into the pan whilst the french toast is cooking.

As soon as you remove your french toast from the pan, sprinkle your desired amount of goat's cheese on top of each slice. Serve with peaches and toppings.

PS - People keep asking me how I'm doing well Dan's away. Well, I cook meals like this, there's less dishes, and I have more leftovers. Boo-ya. :)