29 April, 2012

Crackers/Batons Salés

I've never come across a cracker like this in the store. This recipe produced wonderful, tender savoury sticks (but not the crisp, thin cracker you might be looking for).  There's some milk, butter, flour and salt involved. I've made another cracker recipe (inspired by Leslie Stowe's savoury-sweet crisps) and they didn't crisp for me either.  Both recipes were a tiny miracle and were eaten up.

"Baked goods and desserts should not be regarded as a luxury at home." - Ginette Mathiot

I attempted a classic French recipe from this cushy baking book.  Making these crackers did feel a bit luxurious, as if I was let in on an incredible secret. (I also tested this recipe replacing gluten-free flour for all-purpose wheat, adding a teaspoon of xantham gum, and it turned out fine).

Clotilde Dusoulier (consulting editor on the book) spoke at George Brown College several months ago to a bunch of us aspiring food writers.  Clotilde is one of the world's original successful food bloggers (i.e., it turned into a new career).  It got me thinking about my own desire to write about food, on a blog.  Isn't the genre already overdone, overstocked?  You know, too much salt on the cracker?

Clotilde offered advice about how to stand out among the tens of thousands of food blogs in the world but I am still deciding on the "unique" elements for Sweet Julienne.  I know it is ordinary (photos, a little text, recipes etc) so I've been thinking of ways to switch up the format. I am getting a bit bored.  Until I figure it out, let's make some crackers...

Batons Salés
adapted from The Art of French Baking

(this recipe needs one hour resting time before baking)

1 cup milk
5 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 teaspoons fine sea salt

Gently heat the milk and butter until lukewarm and the butter is melted.  Remove from the heat and stir in the flour and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Whisk everything together until the dough is very smooth.  Let rest for 1 hour on the counter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet with butter.  Mix the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt  with a bit of water and set aside (this will be soon be brushed on the cracker to give it a lightly salted finish).

Put a bit of flour on your work surface and roll out the dough (1/4 inch thick).  Cut into 1/2 inch x 4 inch strips (I got about a dozen crackers with varying imperfections).  Place them on the greased cookie sheet.  Brush the surfaces with the salty water and bake 10 minutes until golden brown.  Serve with sharp cheese or lightly sweetened jam.

22 April, 2012

CBC's Spinach & Grilled Cheese Sandwich


There it is.  You know it, and you and I both love it.  I learned a couple new tricks to make a simple melted fist of comfort worth sharing.

I was driving an Autoshare to get groceries at 7pm on a recent Thursday.  Listening to CBC to keep me company, they had a short (and fluffy) piece about national grilled cheese day.  There was audio of the host observing as her producer cooked in the CBC "kitchen" (is this true?) making a traditional grilled cheese.  On the line was one of the creators/judges of the grilled cheese championship out there in California.  (Emphasis on 'out there').  But, what is worth sharing is that they were grilling both sides of the bread in butter before adding the filling and grating the cheese for an even melt.  I didn't make the fists of comfort that night for dinner but I did buy cheese at the store, and they did comfort us the next day.  

My choice was to add chopped spinach to the sandwich and serve with roasted broccoli on the side.   

17 April, 2012

It's food magic: Thai Coconut Soup

I was near Ryerson/Gerrard East last week and hungry for something resembling hope.  I found this recommendation by Frank for Thai food on blogTO.  I walked over but there were no seats available.  I left, hungry, and determined to return (the lemongrass and chile aromas were incredibly inviting).

I was in the exact same part of town the next day trying to see the fashion show by graduating students at Ryerson.  I managed to not see the show (sold out) but there happened to be a table free at (my new favourite low key restaurant) Sukhothai. I ordered a small bowl of Tom Kha Gai soup and Tapioca for dessert. 

Two nights ago I made my own version of the soup for me and Nick.  He went crazy for it!  Said it was the best soup he's likely ever had. And I happen to agree it is nothing short of food magic. 


one can of coconut milk
two cups of veggie broth (or more, depending on how diluted you like it)
brown mushrooms, quartered
sugar snap peas
one medium tomato, cut into eighths
half a block of firm tofu, cubed
one tablespoon of fish sauce
three or four pieces of peeled fresh ginger
one garlic clove, diced
one stalk of lemongrass, tender parts only, diced and crushed
one or two tablespoons of red curry paste
one or two tablespoons of red chile paste 

small handful of cilantro, chopped
olive oil


Lightly sauté the mushrooms, peas, and tomato in a bit of oil and set aside.  Heat the coconut milk and broth in a large pot until simmering.  Add the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, fish sauce, and tofu and cook for three minutes.  Add the sautéd vegetables and cook for two minutes.  Add the curry and chile pastes, taste and add more if you like, then serve with cilantro garnish.

(you could also make the classic version using chicken stock and chicken breast instead of tofu)

10 April, 2012

Queen West sandwich vs. Entertainment District soup and salad

First round (The County General):  Signature fried chicken thigh sandwich with avocado in one corner, grilled cheese and pear sandwich in the other corner.  We shared platters and all the elements were gone in the time it took the streetcar to pass outside the window. Bib lettuce is my new favourite salad green.  Velvety!

Second round (O&B's Canteen): (I actually ordered french onion soup and a green salad but was tempted by the Fresh Tagliatelle description on the menu.  Took ingredient list home to try later.  I used to pick wild chanterelle mushrooms in cape breton, sidestepping moss covered logs, and who could go wrong with kale, cheese, and fresh pasta?)  rk ordered the beet salad and french onion soup.  Our soup was bang on, nicely salted broth, tangy gruyere but the beet salad was too much of a good thing and my salad called for 'preserved tomatoes' but they barely made it in the bowl, and unfortunately are not a taste I want to return to.

Verdict: The County General for its fried chicken sandwich and Canteen for French Onion Soup

07 April, 2012

Oatmeal Blueberry Pancakes

This reasonable recipe for oatmeal buttermilk blueberry pancakes was lifted from the venerable New York Times archive and properly executed on a good friday morning, with a couple tiny ingredient switches to accommodate what I had on hand.  I made a batch (one dozen) and stuck the remainder in the freezer in packets of three.  I will thaw for a quick breakfast another day, when I officially miss the weekend.  

Many fruits could be substituted for blueberry - banana, raspberry, blackberry.  I'd even try pear.

Cook's note: the batter has to sit for an hour (or overnight) so plan ahead ... they're worth the wait.

Oatmeal Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes
From The New York Times / Martha Rose Shulman

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup milk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1 /2 cups buttermilk (I never buy "real" buttermilk, instead I add fresh lemon juice to ordinary milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I prefer to use maple extract)
3 tablespoons canola oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or other berries/banana)

Mix the oats with the 1/2 cup of milk and set aside.

Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the buttermilk (or milk and lemon juice) and whisk together.  Now whisk in the vanilla (or maple) extract and the oil.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk tougher, but do not over beat.  Fold in the oat mixture.  Let sit for one hour, or refrigerate overnight.

Get a nonstick pan hot and add a bit of oil (if necessary).  Drop 1/4 cup spoonfuls onto the hot pan.  Decorate each pancake with 5-7 blueberries (depending on their size).  Cook until bubbles begin to break through, and the edges are light brown, about 2-3 minutes.  Flip and cook the other side for about 30 seconds or until nicely browned.  Continue making pancakes until the batter is used up.

Keep well wrapped in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze them for up to a few months.