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I was plain chuffed (a phrase I feel my old writer L could’ve penned herself) when Mary Luz Mejia invited me to hear internationally acclaimed food blogger Clotilde Dusoulier speak at an event called “Eating Words: The Art of Food Blogging” last week.

While the name did not immediately resonate, Clotilde’s blog Chocolate & Zucchini was instantly familiar, as I’ve been a reader & subscriber for years! Visiting from Paris & spending two weeks in Stratford and Toronto, she made a concerted effort to visit George Brown College for this event.

Mary Luz, for those who may not be aware is a food writer, researcher, food TV producer/director and “one of Toronto’s most dedicated and passionate food journalists”. Isn’t that a lovely summation? My goal? Striving to be “one of Toronto’s most dedicated and passionate restaurant-enthusiasts” ;)

While having never met in person, Mary Luz tweets about all things food (@MaryLuzonFood), and I – much to the exasperation & teasing of M&S – also tweet incessantly about food (@_KimLe). Ah, the little windows that open up through Twitter.

Thursday came with eager anticipation. What a geek I am. Pourquoi? Simply to be in the presence of other like-minded, food-crazed strangers. Friends, who bless their hearts, tolerate it with infinite patience, are relieved to have me channel my blatherings elsewhere for a night.

Clotilde, with her lovely French accent, was here to give us a glimpse of her success (but not limited to) as a food blogger. How it all began, personal experiences and tips for writing. Born & raised in Paris, into a family of engineers (like me!), she created her blog in 2003 as an outlet to express her obsessive desire to talk about food (always) and to extend the conversation beyond the dinner table (24/7 if possible). It became a space she called her own (true), and a space that provided her tremendous joy (yes)…from readers’ reactions to the latest fervent dialogue over the best places to try in Toronto (overwhelmingly so).

{Sidebar I}: Isn’t it funny how you grasp onto similarities & identify with those whom you admire?

{Sidebar II}: Writing this from Montreal. Surrounded by family who speak French beautifully. Meeting Clotilde. Reading “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry” – a true story of a journalist who pursues a lifelong dream to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. All serve to heighten ever-long desire to learn French. Someone…anyone…wave a linguistics wand & bestow this magical language upon me, s’il vous plaît.

Interesting note was that Clotilde’s 10 tips to a successful food blog could effectively be applied to ANY blog. From finding a focus & setting yourself apart to giving credit where credit is due, these weren’t food-specific or necessarily revelations, but simply guiding stars (and made richer with her stories). A warm & vibrant woman – she exuded a natural passion that was infectious, and for me, stirred up a renewed enthusiasm & commitment to writing. Merci Clotilde for sharing your stories & insights. And thank you Mary Luz for the invitation. How did you know this was just the thing to nudge me into action again? ;)

À bientôt!
kox

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Le Slaw

My fridge is like the fridge from Chopped. Random at best.

Cabbage. Grainy mustard. Artichokes. Sundried tomatoes. Chives. Bacon. Now, why wouldn’t we combine all of these?

Anything goes when your last meal was a plate of dirty nachos. No story to be told. Move along now.

Best homemade fish tacos

Monday night tacos! No matter that today is Thursday & this particular dinner happened months ago. Confession: There MAY have been a moment in time where I was cooking more than I was dining out. Mind you, fleeting. And stop snorting in disbelief. It happened! And then life resumed…… as it always does.

Anyway, this goes down as one of my most favourite spreads. Basa fish tacos. Wickedly good. And it doesn’t hurt that fresh cilantro, lime & avocado are everywhere. Serious contenders. Btw, if this reminds you of summer, wait ’til you try out this recipe in February. No food disparity. Tacos are for every season.

Why you’ll crave it: Basa fish with a touch of cumin, gaucasalsa, spicy cilantro sour cream, cabbage slaw, onion relish… everything except the tortillas & sprouts were made from scratch! Will take time this wknd (or next) to write out recipes. Pinky swear.

Kitchen renovations = sole reason why I hosted Thanksgiving this year.

And up until Sunday morning when my mother called me, did I habour secret hopes she had been joking. Hosting didn’t mean cooking! Of course not. Crazy sense of humour. Free rein over my oven, stove, knives…entirely welcomed. Not quite.

Why such a big deal? Love to cook. Cook for friends all the time. Even completed Culinary Arts I at George Brown without burning down the kitchen.

Well, for one… I rarely (read: never) cook for my parents. Blessed (read: spoiled).

Second of all: My mother is AMAZING in the kitchen. And I know how to make one Vietnamese dish. Pourquoi? Because I’m too busy stuffing face to learn. Yell at me another time please. 2012 resolution…still a few months away.

So, I had 6hrs to get my sh*t together. Spent an hour menu planning. Spent another hour at the grocery store buying every root vegetable known (or unknown). Swooped in on the squash. Scoured shelves for nutmeg. Scored with disposable roasting pans. Debated organic chicken vs. cornish hen vs. duck for a good 15min (no turkey for Le fam). Lugged it all back home & spent the next 4hrs in the kitchen.

Peeled. Diced. Chopped. Roasted. Peeled. Roasted. Puréed. Simmered. Seasoned. Rubbed. Stuffed. Roasted. Basted. Plated. Served.

And mini-feast turned out magnificently! Bro, wish you could’ve seen it. You would’ve been proud.

Indulgently spectacular weekend. Thankful for the greatest family, friends… and a metabolism that just keeps on giving.

cornish hen w/ garlic & rosemary

roasted & curried butternut squash soup

medley of gorgeous root vegetables

cornish hen w/ garlic & rosemary

Recipes in a pinch. First time making everything. Will tweak & play around next time ;)

Roasted & Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Cornish Hen with Garlic & Rosemary

Roasted Fall Root Vegetables

Canteen + TIFF = Love Affair

And it begins! Simple fare. Simple favourites. Casual dinner before a TIFF screening? Perfect.

From my first infatuation with Canteen almost a year ago (bonne anniversaire!), Chef Bangerter has had some fun with the menu… introducing new dishes, removing some and tweaking others. And I, with the help of a few friends, have eaten our way through most of it (surprise surprise!).

Below are my picks for best dishes to try pre-TIFF screening.  Sidebar: And only 24hrs until A & I strategically plant ourselves in front of one handsome-strapping-actor-musician-not-so-secret-love. Sweet lo, we can hardly stand it. Yep, fully aware of Eva canoodling. Temporary lapse.

Chef J, if he steps foot into the building and sits his cute butt down, you MUST send smoke signals. Will reco a few dishes, let him know the burrata upstairs is also to die for, happily offer up ourselves… ok, FOCUS.

Favourite Canteen dishes!

  1. Beet roots. Just started to love ’em. Now, can’t get enough of ’em.
  2. Seared scallops with a hint of curry. And sweet sweet raisins.
  3. White pizza, pancetta and a fried egg? Yes, please.
  4. The lemon posset. Lightest dessert ever created, every spoonful is sigh-worthy.

beet roots w/ tarragon, hazelnut, rice wine vinaigrette

seared scallops, curried cauli & sultana raisins

frattau pizza w/ potatoes, pancetta, fried egg, pecorino, rosemary

lemon posset, chantilly & blues

O&B Canteen
330 King St. West, TIFF Bell Lightbox
647.288.4710

Sunday steak dinner

Cast iron grill pan is a girl’s new best friend. Flank steak, orzo with basil pesto, tomatoes & feta, asparagus. May or may not have had steak for breakfast this morning. High five leftovers!

Sometimes, I follow recipes. Most of the time, I don’t. Three adamant reasons: 1) discipline… what’s that? 2) feeding 6-8 mouths? not typically. 3) it’s just more fun! Inspired by recipes from Gourmet Grilling & Epicurious, here’s my take & cheers to Sunday dinners.

must bring camera out more often. iPhone4 & natural light.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

For steaks:

  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • splash of soy sauce
  • splash of red wine vinegar
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of grainy mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • flank steak (3/4 pounds)

For orzo:

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp basil pesto (be generous)
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta (or free-hand sprinkle)
  • salt & pepper to taste

For asparagus:

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • small bundle of asparagus, trimmed
  • salt & pepper to taste

MARINATE, GRILL, TOSS & SAUTE

Flank steaks:

  • Whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, mustard, lemon, Worcestershire, garlic, cumin, pepper. Pour marinade into large sealable plastic bag. Seal steaks in bag. Shake shake to coat meat, then chill at least 4 hours and up to 8. Bring steaks to room temperature 30min before grilling.
  • Prepare grill pan for direct-heat cooking over medium heat.
  • Remove steaks from marinade (discard marinade) and pat dry. Grill, turning over once, until medium-rare, 4-6 minutes on each side.
  • Transfer steaks to a cutting board and let stand, uncovered, about 15min. Thinly slice steaks across the grain. Wahoo meat!

Orzo salad & asparagus:

  • Toss together basil pesto, tomatoes, fresh basil, lemon zest, salt & pepper in bowl. Let stand 10-15 min.
  • Multitasking action: Cook orzo in pot of boiling salted water until al dente (approx. 8-10 min). Drain & set aside.
  • Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on asparagus, coat evenly. Salt and pepper as desired. Put asparagus spears into skillet, no crowding, and saute over medium-high heat for 4-6min (depending on how you like ’em… fork pierce test).
  • In a medium-sized bowl, toss orzo & basil tomato mixture. Add feta & toss again. Serve warm or chilled. Best orzo salad ever.

Love ad hoc dishes that work out. Egg noodles & pea shoots. Roasted tomatoes & basil. Chanterelle & oyster mushrooms. Delicious!