Archive for the ‘read, cook, eat’ Category


read, cook, eat: Mother’s magic macaroni, tomatoes and cheese

April 11, 2014

TV Dinner Time logo

Dec. 14, 2007 was the original publication date of this blog post, back when my late mother was a going concern (and going and going). One thing we never bickered about was macaroni and cheese. She was the queen. I was standing close by with a bowl to be filled. Bliss. On the fifth-anniversary of this 11th ave blog, of which she was a ridiculously generous supporter (still top commenter, four years after resting in peace), I repost her mac and cheese classic.

Nobody does it like mother does. Macaroni, that is. Unless you’re the boyfriend and you hate tomatoes or even the idea that tomatoes would play any part in that most sacred of TV food groups, macaroni and cheese. Maybe it’s a chick thing. But Mother and I know what we like. So whenever the wind blows me back home to Winnipeg, and we gather with Aunt Daisy and the gals for an evening of cacklin’ good fun, this is what’s cookin. Mother, this one’s for you.

Betty’s Macaroni and Tomatoes and Cheese (TM)

While you’re boiling the bejeesus out of a box of macaroni or some more frou-frou pasta (i prefer whole wheat fusilli: mother is shaking her head no), set the oven to 375 C and haul out the biggest and heaviest casserole dish you own. Bonus points if it’s cast iron. Into that casserole, toss a can of tomatoes, roughly chopped with the edge of the lid if they’re whole, along with a half dozen chopped green onions, an unwise amount of freshly ground black pepper (take the salt shaker from Mother; she knows she’s not supposed to) and a wee bit from the two or three handfuls of cheddar that your mother has made you grate by hand (and now you’re bleeding!) because she’s too stubborn to use the food processor sitting patiently below the counter. Call Aunt Daisy into the kitchen to help you load the casserole into the oven to cook for the duration of the pasta’s cooking time. You’ll know the pasta is done when it is waaaaay past al dente. Limp even.

Call Aunt Daisy back to help pull the too-damned-heavy casserole out and place it beside the sink, where Mother will add the strained, limp pasta to the tomato mixture while trying not to spill too many noodles into the sink. If I am not looking, mother will add a bit more butter before stirring it up very well. Only thing left after that is to add the generous, shaggy mound of grated cheddar.

Place back in the oven and cook for roughly three old family stories you’ve heard a million times before but that still make you laugh (some would say bray). It’s done when the cheese is browned. If Aunt Daisy is not too tipsy, call her back to haul it out. Mother, of course, will serve. You’ll all eat from TV tables and you won’t complain. And of course, you’ll be glad you wore your eatin’ pants.


read, cook, eat: Pate the Careless Way

March 17, 2014
Pate the Careless Way, adapted from Line Cook's Pate by Javier Huerta, photo by dduguay, all rights reserved

Pate the Careless Way, adapted from Line Cook’s Pate by Javier Huerta, photo by dduguay, all rights reserved

I aMAZed my colleagues Monday by bringing homemade pate into work. OK, a bit gauche to serve it to them at 10 in the morning (but they’re on the early shift so, really, it’s like half past lunchtime to you and me). Also possibly dodgy of me to confess that I’d never tried it before and hoped they lived to say whether they liked the peppercorns or hated the texture. But it all worked out.

Best part? It took half an hour from unwrapping the chicken livers. AND, it cost $2.58. Well, the chicken livers cost $2.58 (from grain-fed chickens, if you please). Plus the cost of half an onion, a mumble mumble of butter and the 1/4 cup of port left over from a recent dinner party. So let’s call it $5. Produced about 1.5 cups of pate. And my colleagues think I’m a fecking goddess who invented chickens so they could grow livers and make this all possible.

Bow down before me. Or better yet, click on this link right here for the nytimes’ adaptation of the original recipe from Javier Huerta, a brilliant line cook who works at the Brooklyn resto called Fort Defiance, gleaned from a piece by Sam Sifton in the New York Times Magazine back in January. I love this recipe because it’s dirty simple and it’s been passed around a lot. They’re the best kind, even if it means the results will slip and slide from time to time. It encourages the funnest part of cooking. Which in my case mostly means I read the recipe several weeks ago and didn’t check it closely enough when I whipped this up on Sunday. And you know what? Didn’t matter. So here’s my riff. Let me know if you come up with some fancy new twist, even if it comes from carelessness.

Pate the Careless Way

  • A styro flat of chicken livers or, if you’re in Montreal, gesier de poulet de grain
  • Half the large Spanish onion, diced, that you didn’t use making the terrible meatballs (wrecked because you added too much bread crumbs; too much? too many? anyway, ugh)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup port or whatever is left over from the dinner party
  • Dash of dried thyme
  • 3 T. 35 % cream
  • 1 tsp. green peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup dried sour cherries, chopped

Melt half the butter (or all the butter, if you’re being careless; it doesn’t seem to matter!)

Saute the onions over medium head until translucent, adding the chicken livers, thyme and port, turning to medium high, gently cooking until nicely brown on the outside and pinkish on the inside.

Toss the whole steaming mess into the food processor with the cream and, if you’re not me, the remaining 1/4 cup of butter. Pulse until smoothe. Taste. Salt, if you like, but don’t go crazy. Add the peppercorns and pulse exactly and briefly once so only a few smash up. Add in the dried cherries. Or I wish I had been able to find the secret stash of dried cherries, but next time I really will. They will make a wonderful contribution. Also, pistachios? Jeeves? Make a note.

Put the pate into the fancy ramekins you never otherwise use, the lid of which you will drop and ruin a perfectly good set and why did you bother anyway. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill at least two hours.

Serve with bread and I just about died after I added a blurp of blueberry jam. Killer. Fort Defiance recommends their bacon onion jam but we’re so over bacon, aren’t we? No? OK, here’s a recipe for that too. You people.


read, cook, eat: bow down to Ottolenghi and eat your lentils (the bacon helps)

February 12, 2014
Puy lentils with dried cherries and bacon. Denise Duguay. All rights reserved

For pity sake: Cook the bacon more than I did here. Tastes fine, but the crunch of properly cooked bacon works much better. Dish: Puy lentils with dried cherries and bacon, adapted from Ottolenghi’s. Photo, such as it is, by Denise Duguay. All rights reserved

I am quite fond of lentils, despite their social challenges. I am a longtime lover of Lentils, Monastery Style, which is not only the page on which my well-worn copy of  Diet for a Small Planet falls opens but also currently describes my life. But I digress.

Right. Lentils. Love ’em. Also love this food guy Yoam Ottolenghi. I have a few too many of this Israeli-born food wizard’s cookbooks. Leafing through them on a bored Sunday, I spied, in Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, a recipe for Puy Lentils with Sour Cherries, Bacon and Gorgonzola.

Here’s a link to the full recipe, via Googlebooks so I’m hoping it’s not a copyright problem. (Here, for karma sake, is a link to Ottolenghi’s own site with a whole bunch of additional recipes.)

I’ve tried this dish twice and I have tweaked and simplified. As usual, I was too lazy and my loathing of red-wine vinegar too great to follow this recipe too faithfully. I declined the Gorgonzola both times because, although I love it, the dish had enough salt from the bacon. And I didn’t think I’d like it all sticky with the cheese. But I’ll try it again and maybe report back.

Here’s my adapted recipe, (with thanks to Yoatav Ottolenghi):

11th ave Puy Lentils with Dried Cherries and Bacon

1. In a medium saucepan, cover 2/3 cup rinsed Puy lentils and with three times their height in water, plus bay leaf or two. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 20 minutes or desired firm/softness (don’t let them get too mushy)

2. Chop up 8 slices of bacon and once sizzling in a good sized pan, toss in 2 or 3 chopped shallots. Saute, medium heat, until the bacon is as crisp as you like. Remove from heat and add 1 T of red wine vinegar* and 1/2 cup chopped dried sour cherries. (I find the Costco Kirkland dried cherries too sweet. Dried cranberries might do in a pinch. Raisins, if you’ve no standards at all.) Continue over low heat for just enough to warm/soften the dried whatever-you’re-using).

3. Your lentils are almost done. Drain well and add to the sauce.

4. Now there’s the business of adding the greens. I fancy whatever’s on sale at the PA (Fort St., please!) and called “baby” so I don’t have to chop or “tear” (seriously, you foodies have too much time on your hands): Look for a bag of baby arugula, baby kale, regular old pathetic adult spinach. If you like your greens limp, you can close this blog post right now. If you like your greens with a little spring in the baby stems, dump your bag of greens in a biggist salad bowl and place the hot mess of lentils and bacon and cherries on top. Toss with whatever vigour you feel. Unless you’re listening to Pharrell Williams’ Happy. In which case, calm the fuck down.

Plate this — that’s foodie for “arrange on the plate with incredible fussiness to create the impression you just casually tossed it off — and then eat. Some kind of big red wine would do nicely. Or a can of Coke.

Bon appetit!

* While I thought it was because I was too cheap to shell out for good/expensive red wine vinegar, I have instead discovered that red wine vinegar is satan’s condiment and the original recipe’s requirement for 4.5 tablespoons overwhelms the nutty goodness of this salad.


read, cook, eat: Ain’t-No-Newton Roasted Figs

May 11, 2013

Update: The thing about enthusiasm is that it knows no season. Am well aware figs are hard to come by (middle-eastern grocery stores, any one?), but I was so smitten by this I decided to post anyway. But Sue Montgomery made the good point that dried figs are also worth considering. And I’d say would be even better in this than the real McCoy. I’m about to add some photos and possibly tomorrow, Happy Mother’s Day, will give a go with dried figs. To be continued.

Figs. I am not alone in loving them, but I think it’s safe to say I appreciate them more than the average fig lover. I blame Fig Newtons, those square little tombstones of dessicated fig and the best prefab cookie material that the 1970s could spit into a cellophane container. My father has a sweet jones and Fig Newtons were his drug. I still get a little queasy thinking about it.

And then… And then I had a real fig. A real fig, all pink and tart in a tear drop shape, with tender skin not even a durable as a grape skin. I better stop. Starting to sound a little indecent.

So now I have a jones for figs. And so here’s this, with thanks to Pop Sugar’s Nicole Perry for the inspiration. And please, Winnipeggers, where can a girl get some figs when she visits?

Ain’t-No-Newton Roasted Figs

1. Fresh figs, with the nibby things cut off and slice in half length-wise

2. Laid out in a baking dish, cut side up

3. Topped with crumbled goat cheese to cover the top

4. Crested by walnut pieces or a half

5. Drizzled with this, which will get velvety thick when you whisk it briefly, giving it the perfect viscosity for drizzling): maple syrup, balsamic vinegar (ratio of about 5 to 1) and blurp of olive oil.

Prepare maybe 3-4 fig halves per person.

Roast 15 minutes in oven at 300 degrees C.

And if you are dining with your beloved, or even by yourself, eat it right out of the baking dish (wait for it to cool a bit) and spoon up as much of the drizzle as possible. It is the best. If you’re having a fancy dinner party and don’t feel everyone would be comfortable all eating out of your baking dish, you need new friends.


read, cook, eat: Susan Semenak’s summer cocktails

July 11, 2012

Susan Semenak launches her new 5 a 7 Friday Cocktail summer series with Citrus Sangria. Recipe at Photograph by: Katherine Mainardi

Don’t you deserve a cool, glass of something something after a hard week at work? Of course you do. And my Montreal friend and Gazette colleague Susan Semenak knows that. So she has begun a summer cocktail series.

Her 5 à 7 Friday Cocktail series launched with Citrus Sangria. Click it. You’ll like it.

Or you can try the Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri, which is just as lovely without the rum. I am told.

Or my fave so far, the Australian Woo Woo. You barely need to drink it, do you?


Update: Thanks to reader Kathe Lieber for the heads up on a broken link, fixed now.


read, cook, eat: I am giving away cans of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (but there’s a catch) UPDATED & MYSTERY SOLVED

January 10, 2012

Jean's Lemon Delight, in all its incomplete glory. Come up with the directions to make these ingredients into a lovely slice and win a can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. Photo by Denise Duguay

Editor’s note: Late-night blogging serves no one well. The original version of the recipe omitted the eggs. The management is wishing she had a minion, on whom to blame this.

Couple months back, I walked into our lunchroom at The Gazette and was shocked to speechlessness. There was a colleague pouring Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk into a coffee cup. IN FULL VIEW OF OTHER ADULTS. He explained, when I recovered, that he was making some sort of obviously amazing coffee. Whatever. The incident did not impress my with its genius blending of coffee and super sweetness. It was the rawness of the thing.

You see, I have my share of the milky, molten nectar of the sugar-buzz gods. I have had it on ice cream, I have poured it (sloppily) on a chunk of high-test dark chocolate, I have creamed it onto toast (white bread only please, and the more butter, the better, duh). I have not bothered even with those diversions. I sucked it out of the can through those triangle holes left by those old can openers (perfect!). I have just poured it down my gullet and NOT BRUSHED MY TEETH IMMEDIATELY (which was a mistake; major tooth throbbing that took days to quell).

But all of these things I have done under cover of locked apartment door. And that was part of the fun. Reaching back to a childhood of stealing the dregs out of the can leftover from some slice or other my mother had made. Or actually opening a new can (thus forcing myself to dispatch the entire tin, from which I broke no sweat) and hoping she’d forget she’d had one on deck. The thievery made it better, made the sugar buzz brighter. But this colleague! He was just drinking it, right there in front of other adults! So I’m emboldened. I’m outta the closet.

I’m cracking open a tin (doesn’t everybody have a Costco three-pack in the pantry?) and although the goal is a good swig of the EBSCM, I’m not a wasteful thug. So Im also going to make one of my grandmother’s slices… Yes I have it right here, from her red tin recipe box: Lemon Delight. It calls for 1-1/2 cups (375 ml.) Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk and … Wait, that means I have to open two 300 ml tins, which means … Yes it does! It means there will be plenty left over. Now where’s that bar of dark chocolate I was saving …

Jean’s Lemon Delight

1 cup rolling-pin crushed Graham Crackers

6 T white sugar

3 T butter

2eggs (separated)

1-1/2 cups Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 T lemon zest

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup flaked coconut

Directions (courtesy of @i_am_mandie who has deferred her victory can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk – she’s vegan – but wins for providing a winning set of instructions for what to do with Grandma Jean’s lists of indients, above)

Melt the butter and combine it with the crushed graham crackers. Press that mixture into a pie pan. Bake 5 minutes at 300 C to set. (this last bit about baking it is my suggestion. dd)

Beat yolks until pale yellow. Add yolks to the condensed milk, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Pour that mixture into the pie crust.

Add sugar to egg whites and beat to form stiff peaks. Fold flaked coconut into the egg whites and dollop onto the yolk/lemon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees (everything bakes at 350 degrees) until set.

And … Well, here’s the rub. There’s nothing else on the recipe card. So this has been a diabolical plot to crowdsource the directions here.

Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, nectar of the gods. Photo by Denise Duguay

Best guesses / pleas for help:


  • Crumbs, sugar, butter are creamed? mixed? into a crust and pressed to the side of an 8-by-8 pan or so. And then baked for 3 or so minutes at 325C?
  • The milk, zest, juice, eggs are …? Just mixed and poured into the shell and baked? Or mixed and cooked in a sauce pan until dreamily thick then poured into the shell and refrigerated? And why are the eggs separated?
  • And what’s with the coconut? In the filling? Atop the filling, once poured into the crust. And then? Bake the whole thing? Drink it down?
  • Forget the whole thing and just chug the two cans of sweetened condensed milk?

Won’t you help a friend with a jones for Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk? The first two to unlock the mystery of Jean’s Lemon Delight will be paid in Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk.




read, cook, eat: Gremolata

December 11, 2011

Gremolata on Osso Bucco and Risotto Milano. Photo by Denise Duguay

Osso Bucco, as much fun to eat as it is to say, is wonderful when prepared correctly. Which is to say prepared according to the hectoring voice in my head which sounds suspiciously like my sainted mother urging me to go slowly. No, even more slowly than that. One of the things you can do while preparing Osso Buco, which should take at least a couple of hours of cooking time, is preparing one of the simplest and best condiments. Ever. Gremolata, which is also as much fun to say as it is to eat. Simply, and that is part of the charm, gremolata is minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Jumble it up and either feather it atop your Osso Bucco or mix it in with the drippings left in the pan. It adds a spiky, but delicate punch of flavour to the silky veal. But why stop at veal? It also goes amazingly well with other roast meats, ribs and even fish and other seafood. And why stop at parsley. Why not mint? Or even cilantro (that’s coriander, you Quebecers).

Lemon zest , or citrus zest of some kind, is the soul of Gremolata. Photo by Denise Duguay

The gremolata recipe I use is carved into the Osso Buco recipes I use, which is Mark Bittman’s from The Best Recipes of the World but for linking purposes here, all I could find was the Osso Bucco (click here), and so I’ll wing the Gremolata below.

Gremolata is nothing without garlic. Photo by Denise Duguay


One bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, minced

One lemon, zested

I not-too-large clove garlic, minced

Jumble it all up in a lovely small bowl. If you’re fearful of the garlic, add a few drops of olive oil, which will dull the bite a bit.

Feeling frisky? Try’s Mixed herb Gremolata.

Gremolata needs some kind of herb. The classic version takes parsley and I prefer flat-leaf parsley. Photo by Denise Duguay

Denise Duguay

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