Family Recipe: Grandma’s Rhubarb Cake

rhubarb cake

I’ve come to realize that many of us have been bequeathed a cherished family recipe. Be it simple or elaborate to prepare, it’s a dish so fiendishly delicious that it is the unmistakable star of the family meal, whether celebrating triumphs, comforting woes, or keeping family traditions alive. Withholding such heirloom recipes from the world seems almost cruel. Hence, I am championing the family recipe. I will entice the people in my universe to share favourite, nostalgia-infused family recipes, and I will give one of them centre stage in this very space on a monthly basis. In the end, we are all family, and these recipes represent the legacies of our shared passions. This month’s post is written by my buddy Truds. Enjoy!

I remember as kids raiding the garden for stalks of rhubarb. For this cake, I cut the rhubarb up really small so you get a sour taste in each bite.  A lot of people don’t like the sourness of rhubarb—but I really do.  The cake has just the right amount of sugar to make it completely perfect (although, I do admit that in some instances, I will reduce the amount of sugar in both the cake and in the topping.) I think the next time I get my hands on someone’s rhubarb stash, I’ll try making this recipe as a rhubarb/strawberry cake.  A divine combination! Hope you enjoy!

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Book Review: Southern Appetizers

Southerners adore their appetizers, and this collection of 60 recipes—served up with a healthy dose of Southern hospitality—shows why. Smoked pecans on the sideboard, cheese straws on the coffee table, an array of hot dips on the dining table, and pickled shrimp on the porch are just some of the myriad of dishes found in this volume that prove food is the life of the party. Tips on creating the ideal party flow, being a gracious host, arranging flowers, sending out invitations, and planning the perfect menu ensure any event will go off without a hitch. Both a lovely hostess gift and a party-planning idea book, Southern Appetizers is all anyone needs for a successful gathering with Southern style. (more…)

Interview with a Chef: Ottawa Ribfest’s Matt Smith of Gator BBQ

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Nick Smith, left, and his father Matt, of Gator BBQ.
Photo credit: MORGAN MODJESKI / THE STARPHOENIX

 

For over 30 years, Gator BBQ has been delivering mouth-watering chicken, pulled pork and ribs to the hungry crowds of Rib Fests all across North America. Touring Canada and the Northern United States, the Smith family of Port Dover continue to win countless awards and events with their signature southern BBQ cuisine. On the eve of Ottawa Ribfest, I caught up with Matt Smith to discuss his humble BBQ beginnings, his secret for achieving great tasting barbecue and if he ever gets tired of being around so much BBQ!

How did you get involved in the BBQ business?
By accident mostly. I used to be part of the carnival circuit for Conklin Shows and eventually crossed paths with a fella who ran these Ribfests. I started my own team and its grown from there—must be 20 years at least. We were there at the very start!

Tell me about the BBQ process. Boil or bake? Smoker? Hardwood or gas?
Always smoked. Ribs, pork and chicken are done in our smoker (Southern Pride) for various times depending on the meat. Although the fuel is propane, there’s a wood oven that heats the smoker and pumps the heated smoke throughout. (more…)

Toronto: Baseball, Beyoncé and Baby Pandas

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My recent jaunt to the 6 (Toronto, for the uninitiated) included wondrous and diverse activities.

My Chipotle obsession continued. Three visits during my five-day stay. Unsurprisingly, my beloved first-place (at the time) Red Sox lost in spectacular fashion. Always great to be kitted out in full Sox regalia while being chirped by 50,000 petulant bandwagon-jumping Jays fans. (more…)

Interview with a Chef: Sheila Lynch of Three Tarts Bakery

White Chocolate, Cranberry and Toasted Pistachio Tart

I discovered Three Tarts Bakery a few years back. It started with one tart: White Chocolate, Cranberry and Toasted Pistachio. You would think that the sweetness of the chocolate would overpower the other flavours. Wrong! The tangy cranberries make themselves heard and the pistachios lend a nice crunch allowing an insinuation of nuttiness.

I then began my exploration of the cookies. While chocolate chip, oatmeal and shortbreads cookies generally get all the glory, I prefer the less vaunted “decorated cookies.” Three Tarts is a temple to the art of decorated cookies. Miniature edible masterpieces done in artful symmetry. There’s something about biting off a bunny’s ear or chomping on the tail of a whale that just fills me with joy. (more…)

Book Review: Israel Eats

I must begin with a confession. I adored/obsessed over this cookbook so much that I hesitated to write about it. You know that feeling when you encounter something or someone so great that you are left to fall silent? I felt a bit unworthy. Thankfully, I moved past my insecurities and decided that it was more important to introduce my readers to the brilliance of this book.

Equal parts revelatory memoir, insightful travel guide, expedient cookbook, and sumptuous coffee table book, Israel Eats is an eye-opening experience of Israel’s food culture today.

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Family Recipes: Finnish Coffee Bread

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I’ve come to realize that many of us have been bequeathed a cherished family recipe. Be it simple or elaborate to prepare, it’s a dish so fiendishly delicious that it is the unmistakable star of the family meal, whether celebrating triumphs, comforting woes, or keeping family traditions alive. Withholding such heirloom recipes from the world seems almost cruel. Hence, I am championing the family recipe. I will entice the people in my universe to share favourite, nostalgia-infused family recipes, and I will give one of them centre stage in this very space on a monthly basis. In the end, we are all family, and these recipes represent the legacies of our shared passions. This month’s post is written by my  pal Sherry. Enjoy!

My paternal Grammie emigrated from Finland with her sister when she was 17 years old. Landing at Pier 21 in Halifax, she brought with her a few material possessions and an unwavering passion for baking. One dish in particular took centre stage in her repertoire—pulla coffee bread. The Finnish people know this bread well and every household makes a slight variation from the next. Sitting around the kitchen table with a strong brewed coffee and a slice (or four) of pulla bread is a time honoured custom.

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The best thing I ate this month – April 2016

Don’t be fooled by the amateurish photograph. It was dark. A discerning eye will be able to see through the pixelation and easily surmise that these pork chops are haute cuisine. Not shocking since they were from Montreal’s Joe Beef, currently ranked as the #4 restaurant in Canada (but #1 in my heart).

At Joe Beef more is more. This place is not for the faint of heart. But is it all too much? Au contraire mon frère. The intensity of the experience of an expertly seared piece of meat should not be dismissed out of hand. Biting into the crusty exterior led to the pale-pink tinged and tender interior which imparted a rich, meaty flavour.  These pork chops were seductive. It is not mere hyperbole to say that they left me mesmerized. And they were most definitely the best thing I ate this month (and maybe ever).

Book Review: Bowl by Lukas Volger

Bowl by Lukas Volger: Vegeterian recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and other one-meal dishes

I liked this cookbook—a lot.  It’s by Lukas Volger, a New York-based chef who set out to develop one-bowl meals that are all the rage today—but in vegetarian form. The possibilities for improvisational meals full of seasonal produce and herbs are nearly endless.

Volger’s ramen explorations led him from a simple bowl of miso ramen to a summer ramen with corn broth, tomatoes, and basil. From there, he went on to the Vietnamese noodle soup pho, with combinations like caramelized spring onions, peas, and baby bok choy. His edamame dumplings with mint are served in soup or over salad, while spicy carrot dumplings appear over toasted quinoa and kale for a rounded dinner. Grain bowls range from ratatouille polenta to black rice burrito with avocado. And unlike their meatier counterparts, these dishes can be made in little time and without great expense.

Volger also includes many tips, techniques, and base recipes perfected over years of cooking, including broths, handmade noodles, sauces, and garnishes.

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Book Review: Big Flavor’s of New Orleans

Kevin Belton Cover

Chef Kevin Belton, a true Creole New Orleanian, dishes up the culinary history of his city with recipes that provide both down-home comfort and the big flavours. He teaches how to make a perfect roux and explains the background of that holiest trinity of Creole cooking—celery, onion, and bell pepper—while offering his spin on the Louisiana classics of gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, po’boys, and grillades with grits.

Chef Belton’s signature dishes like Pecan-Crusted Redfish, Stuffed Mirlitons, Louisiana Boudin-Stuffed Quail, Creole Cottage Pie, and Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce are not to be missed and are well worth the time in the kitchen! (more…)