Italian feast in French city

My regular experience with Italian food are dining in the Old Spaghetti Factory or Anton’s. I remember I was really impressed by the big serving portion of Anton’s dish but never really by the food itself. To me, dining at a family style italian restaurant is more like “Yeah yeah, it’s just pasta or pizza, nothing SO special about Italian food…” and I was so wrong.

During my staying in Montreal, I found there’s tons of Italian restaurants around the city’s busiest restaurant districts, no matter it is on St. Denis, St. Laurence, or Outremont. Little Italian restros are everywhere with pleasant dining environment and moderate price. My old impression of Italian cuisine was holding me back from trying out an Italian restaurant. But that was before the wonderful meal at Le Petit Italien , thanks to my friend Jannie.

We were just wondering in one of those hot summer nights in Montreal. It was our second week of staying in that beautiful little Paris of Canada. I started to notice that the number of Italian restaurants were much greater than the French bistro. We stopped by the Outremont area; visiting little novelty shops, vintage books store just made the time passed by so fast that by the time our stomaches started to sing. Across from the vintage bookstore ran by the lovely french gentleman, was Le Petit Italien. Happy dinners sit under the big red sunbloc umbrellas, wine were pulling, glasses clinking, laughters and smiling faces in each and every table. It is definitely a good sign! Although it did look like a fancier restaurant, we still headed in with our modest traveling student budget.

Last summer the hit movie for foodies around the world is “Ratatouille”, thus we had to order it when we saw it on the menu. It came as a warm salad with sautéed diced fennel and pistachio in a balsamic vinegar reduction. It was sweet, crunchy and with a hint of licorice. Second came the pasta, linguine with grilled chicken and…..grapes! Yes, sweet little white grapes packed with summer flavor instantly lighten up the pasta dish. It was a nice surprise and a great discovery of a new use of grapes for me. I don’t usually like to mix sweet and salty flavor together, but this one was a hit. Under the dim candle light, dinning with a good friend, enjoying a delicious meal, it was such a wonderful meal that to this day, when I think about italian meal, I think about that linguine, that night.

Smokey tasty!

 

I’ve stop updating my blog for sometime. Not that I stop cooking, but my life was ever changing since last summer’s visit to Montreal. I know it is quite lame to blame use “busy life” as an excuse, so I will stop apologizing and start blogging again. I do have quite a tasty journey over the past few months and I want to share with you. Let the feast began with the tasty Montréal smoke meat sandwich.
Schwartz’s is a local favorite sandwich shop with limited seating and always a line-up even in the weekdays. They have been serving the famous montreal smoke meat sandwich with rye bread and pickled cucumber for about 80 years. It came to my top list of “must eats” when I did my little research for tasty spots of Montreal. The list was so long that indeed it became “endless” but without this post by AEB, my five-week staying could never be as tasty as it was. Many thanks to AEB! Back to Schwartz, as I am from the Vancouver, eating a big stack of meat on bread is just not in my diet. Not that people in Vancouver are all vege-loving tree-hugging hippies, we do have Memphis Blues BBQ where chow down a whole rack of ribs occasionally, but I will say light meals like Sushi is defintly the love of Vancourites. But having a fully loaded meat sandwich like this was still an adventure for me. The combination is quite simple, two slice of slightly sour rye bread, spread with yellow english mustards and stuff it with layers and layers of freshly sliced smoke meat with lots of pepper on the rim of the meat slices, et Voila!  
The sandwich is so generously packed that the meat to bread ratio was almost 4-to-1. I share with my friend and both of us got so full by just half of an sandwich. It was indeed the tastiest sandwich I’ve ever had. The smoke meat was very moist, well flavored with a good balance of salt and peppery crust, cooked to such perfection that the first bite of it just fell into hundreds of small meat pieces that I didn’t even need to chew. Such simple combination, with the best ingredients and lost of care, it was heavenly. This sandwich marked my first bite of Montréal. The good ones, and bad ones were yet to come. 
ps: I do believe the first time is always the best, my second visit and third visit to Schwartz was never as good as the first time. For some reason i found their sandwich was getting smaller and less meaty. But it was still good.

Ganache Patisserie

Rose et Pamplemousse

vanilla-grapefruit parfait, apricot financier, rose crème brûlée, strawberry-rhubarb gelée

Blanc Fraisier
vanilla cake, vanilla sablé Breton, white chocolate black pepper mousseline, strawberries, passionfruit meringue

 

 
 This is my favorite pastry shop in Vancouver. It has been open for three years, but only until recently it became popular. I think it is a hidden treasure hiding in the trendy Yale Town. (or as I called the Yuppy camp of Vancouver)

L’Ècole de Francais

I’ve been waiting to come to this trip for two months, and now I can’t believe I actually made it all the way to the supposly the most vibrant city of Canada.

The journey started smooth. Thanks to my dear friend Holly who came all the way back from the student residence to pick me up from the airport, I got to avoid the trouble of finding myself lost in the jungle of buses and subways. My first impression of the city is that the landscape is just so flat! There are barely any mountains, just small hills here and there, which is so different from Vancouver. I think the city will look more beautiful without being so foggy all the time. It’s been quite humid and warm since I arrived, but people keep telling me this kinda temperature is too low compare to the regular Montreal summer. This reminds me of the summer of Fuzhou, my hometown.

I am stay in the Studio Hotel of Universitè de Montreal. It’s located in the university campus near Mounte Royal. The building we are staying are two twin towers that’s connected by the lobby. The buildings are having summer renovation at this moment so it’s quite dirty in the lobby. My room is big enough to meet almost all my daily necessities except shower and toilet. I am happy that we have fridge in our room. For a foodie like me, the fridge is quickly filled with fresh seasonal berries, prune, lectures, corns, mushrooms, eggs, some meat and milk. My newly made friends are very impressed by my food need and the fact that I actually bring a wok with me to Montreal. (Big thanks to my mom! ) I cooked my first meal on a very small hot plate, it took me 2 minutes to hit up my small wok….. The rest is story.

According to the orientation, there’s some 400+ of students in this program. A lot of them are just high-school graduates, which make me feel really old. I am happy that I still get a chance to learn so much by paying so little money. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived by my-self entirely on my own for a relatively long period. And so far, I think I really enjoy it.

Let’s see what’s going to happen in this month long staying here, bon chance pour moi-même!

Vanilla Ice Cream with Berry Compote

I totally forgot about this box of strawberry which I purchased a weeks ago. The fruits are still fine except they are little dehydrated. I’ve just got a nice bottle of Ruby Port which is super sweet. I think they will make a perfect couple in making a fruit sauce. I got this recipe for berry compote from a magzine. Tried it, just delicious. Serve this berry sauce over pure vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. I made this for my family gathering this weekend and it was a big hit. =)

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5 cups berries, blueberries and halved strawberries

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 ruby port, or any kind of red wine

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1. In a mdium saucepan, combine berries, sugar, wine, cinnamon and all spice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves. Boil gently for 2 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and let cool; the sauce will thicken while cooling. Refrigerate for up to 2 days, if desired. Serve at room temperature over ice cream.

Blueberry cream flan

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Recipe adopted from the July/August issue of Glow magazine.

Flan:  

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 egg whites

1tsp pure vanilla extract

3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed)

Topping:

2 tbsp all purpose flour

2 cups plain yogurt

1 egg, lightly beaten

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp lemon or orange zest

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, butter, egge whites and vanilla and mix well. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form or flan pan and sprinkle with blueberries.

2. In a bowl, sprinkle flour over yogurt. Add egg, sugar, zest and vanilla and mix untial smooth. Pour mixture over berries.

3. Bake in 350F oven for 60 to 70 minutes or until the topping turn golden. Serve warm or cold.

Note:

I found making hte flan mix into a dough and roll the rough into a flat round pan-cake works better when making the flan base. The orginal recipe called for a 10-inch cake mode, but I found the flan turn out too thin, so maybe a 9-in flan will work better with this recipe.

The traditional flan recipe uses sour cream instead of yogurt. I do find using yogurt taste lighter and less sour. The yogurt will not completely solifiy but rather like a soft custard. The combination of berry and orange zest is just wonderful.

I also tried to pair this flan with the Rigamarole White Wine of VQA Okanagan Vally. It’s an interesting pair. The wine is quite smooth but do not have the tard taste.

Seafood Orzo Pilaf

My first time having orzo was in the Macaroni Grill italian restaurant on Davie street. I felt in love immediatley with this rice shaped pasta. It’s chewy yet smooth, every bite was so much fun just for the texture of the pasta. I’ve always wanted to try to make it at home. Now I have my little herb garden on my belcony, I finaly get to make my favorite pasta. I guess after all, I am still a rice eater by heart, even my favorite pasta is rice shaped!

This recipe is adopted from the Reluctant Gourmet.

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter

250g uncooked orzo

1 clove of garlic, minced

 4 campari tomatoes, chop into bite size

1 cup of water, 1 1/2 cup of chicken stock

 6 shrimps and 6 small scallops

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley and basil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Heat a large sauce pot or fry pan over medium high heat. Add the butter and melt. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the orzo and cook with the garlic for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently so the orzo doesn’t burn. If the pan seems too hot, turn down the heat to medium. Add about 3/4 tomato to cook with the orzo. I like to have most of the tomatoes fully cooked so that the orzo can suck in the flavor of tomatoes.

Add the chicken stock to the pan and bring it to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes while the orzo absorbs the stock. Be sure to stir every so often. Add shrimps and scallops, the rest of tomatoes and the fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper and then cover and cook for a few more minutes until all the stock has been absorbed into the orzo. Be sure to stir so the orzo doesn’t stick to the pan.

 Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese at the end just before serving. 

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