A Bite Into Montreal!

It’s no secret that I fell in love with my hometown of Montreal all over again during my recent summer holiday. The food lover in me couldn’t resist our daily picnics in the park, local farmer’ markets, and of course, the never-ending list of home grown eateries and restaurants just waiting to be discovered and explored!

Without further ado, here is my list of “must try” Montreal culinary experiences for you to sink your teeth into. Note that this is not a review, just my humble opinion and are in no particular order.

Gastronomic Feasts

Le Bremner – After putting it off for years, I finally made it to the celebrated Old Montreal restaurant and got a reservation on a crowded Friday night. Walking down an unassuming, old stone staircase into an 18th century building in what looks like a historic wine cellar, Le Bremner oozes cool without the attitude. The menu is seasonal, short and sweet. Everything is done right, service and all. Tuna sashimi with tahini, lobster risotto, grilled sea bass, and fresh local corn artfully sliced off the cob tableside, were among the delicious delights that graced our dinner table. Homemade gingerale and a Bourbon “cola” were as unexpectedly delicious as they were refreshing. For dessert, just order one of everything – you’ll be happy you did.

Joe Beef – With chefs like Anthony Bourdain and David Chang singing it’s praises, it’s no wonder that this decade old restaurant located in Montreal’s Little Burgundy District has received such global attention. During my chat with founder and chef David McMillan, it’s obvious that he is a true restauranteur who is dedicated to preserving the essence of his culinary vision. Drawing inspiration from whom he refers to as “the adventurous eaters’ of Montreal,” Joe Beef is a place of big meats and bold flavors. If you want to see a menu dominated by prime cuts of meat, rabbit, lobster, clams and fresh fish, then this is right up your alley. Upon arriving at the restaurant, you’ll be on a first name basis with your server in minutes, and with a drink in hand, get ready to be whisked away to the garden for a peek at some of the fresh produce that will leap onto your dinner plate. This is as seasonal and as local as you can get. While McMillan’s food philosophy is uncomplicated, Joe Beef sets the bar high on the Canadian culinary landscape. Head over to its sister restaurants, Le Vin Papillon and Liverpool House – both equally as impressive as their big brother. Totally worth a visit on your next trip to Montreal, book way in advance.

Park RestaurantLocated just outside of Montreal’s urban core in the city of Westmount, I almost missed what I considered one of the culinary highlights of my trip because I thought it out of my way. Thankfully, I came to my senses as my eyes were drawn to the pages of a Japanese menu like I had never seen before. What sets chef Antonio Park’s vision miles apart from the traditional sushi restaurant are the subtle hints of Korean and South American flavors woven within his cooking style. Our sashimi of salmon, snapper, Hamachi, and a brown rice Unagi Maki were accompanied by sauces of avocado, chimichurri and a “secret” golden flecked sauce. A Korean-inspired salad piled high with fresh seasonal vegetables, and a quinoa bibimbap were among the dishes we savored. While presentation is no doubt a feast for the eyes, what impressed me the most was chef Park’s ability to strike the right balance between clean, delicate, and often robust flavors within his unique approach to modern Japanese cuisine. Delicious.

L’Express – With it’s black and white tiled floors, tables draped in pristine whitewashed linen, and black tie clad waiters – L’Express is reminiscent of eras gone by, and the epitome of the classic French bistro (note the vintage photo below for historical reference). Very little on the menu has changed since the restaurant opened 35 years ago, and for good reason – you know a restaurant lives up to its name when it’s the place that most chefs frequent for their off-duty meal. Chicken liver pate with pistachio, beef tartare, veal ravioli, and hangar steak are all signature dishes that are prepared with the consistency and sophistication that L’Express is known for. Don’t get me started on their fries, they are as perfectly French as you could ever imagine! If you still have space for dessert (trust me, make the space), the apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream, and chocolate tart are not to be missed. With many of the staff clocking in twenty to thirty years of experience at L’Express, you can rest assured your dining experience will be in trusted hands.

2. Restaurant L'Express Montreal (section fumeur002)

Casual Dining

Olive et Gourmando With nearly 20 years under its belt, this fun, eclectic restaurant is a tiny jewel on Old Montreal’s St-Paul West Street. It’s charming, cute, and casual, with a lunch lineup that runs beyond it’s front door.. I used to live around the corner many years ago – I’m not at all surprised that it has as much of a buzz about it now as it had back then. Co-owner and founder Dyan Solomon has poured her heart and soul into making this one of the finest casual eateries in the city. It would be almost criminal to miss out on their signature chicken sandwich made grilled bread, guacamole and fresh mango. With salads changing more often than the seasons, there is always an element of surprise within the menu, and their endless variety of freshly baked goods is worth waiting for. O & G has respected the art of the perfect cup of coffee, and to this day, I remain obsessed with their signature Valrhona brownies. Well worth the wait.

Pizzeria Gema – I discovered this “gem” of a pizzeria while wandering the streets of Little Italy with my family on a sweaty summer afternoon. Too hot to sit on their outdoor terrace, we were greeted by friendly wait staff who welcomed us into the buzzing little restaurant. Beautiful thin crust pizzas with toppings of fresh pomodoro, local mozzarella, basil, artichokes, and salami made their way to our table, along with perfectly crisp calamari and a seasonal market salad. A great casual eatery with pizza that’s spot on.

Foods to Try

The Markets – From hard to find exotic foods at specialty grocers to your local honey farmer, Montreal’s markets have it all. The Jean Talon Market and Atwater Market, locatied in Montreal’s Little Italy as well as by the Lachine Canal, respectively, are the spots you’ll want to source the finest local produce, gourmet and artisanal ingredients. Open year round – yes, even in the depth of Montreal’s sub-zero temperatures – the markets boast some of the freshest seasonal fruits and vegetables around. Cheese, meat and other specialty food shops line the periphery and interiors of the market. Don’t forget to stop by the many food stalls that are nestled within. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the summer months as I did this year, Québec’s seasonal berries are a treasure not to be missed.

Montreal Bagels – If you haven’t tried a Montreal bagel before, sorry folks, then you haven’t tried a real bagel. Hand rolled dough, bathed in sweet boiling water, then baked in a deep wood-fire oven – there is nothing, absolutely nothing, like a piping hot, fresh bagel that’s been slathered with cold cream cheese. For me, both St-Viateur and Le Fairmont make the best bagels in town, and arguably the best in the world. The smell when you walk through their doors is enough to put you in a hypnotic state – a cult-like zen-ness overtakes the lineup while you wait in suspended time. With a crisp, sesame coated exterior that’s sweet and chewy when you bite into it, it would be easy to polish off a dozen in one sitting. I have to admit that I packed over 120 bagels from both shops on my way back to Dubai this summer. I probably would have skipped my flight if they didn’t make it on the plane! In fact, they’re sitting in my freezer at the moment, as my family toasts and fights over them, one breakfast at a time.

La Diperie & Le Chocolat Favoris – As a mother of three ice cream lovers, I was amazed by the highly addictive trend that has taken the traditional chocolate dipped cone to new heights. Soft serve ice cream is turned upside down and dipped into flavors like salted caramel, smores, dark chocolate, almond crusted chocolate, pistachio, white chocolate, cookie dough (and the list that goes on). Cones come in different sizes, with the mini-cone being the closest to a guilt-free option. If you appreciate ice cream as much as I do, you’ll have to take the dip and try every flavor at least once.  Note that the sprinkles in the photo below are far from obligatory!

I could go on and on about Montreal’s food scene, but the truth is, there is always something special to discover. The best way to truly experience what the city has to offer is to put on your most comfortable walking shoes, and roam the streets in search of the culinary jackpots that are worthy of biting into. Give me a shout whenever one crosses your path!

Bon Appétit!

Special thanks to Joe Beef, Olive et Gourmando, & L’Express for providing images of their restaurants.

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My Smoked Eggplant Salad Recipe

I have an obsession with eggplant. Versatile as it is elegant, eggplant can be as delicate or as bold as you want it to be, and jives extremely well with many different flavor combinations.

Since my last eggplant recipe post was one where it was sliced, roasted, and served with a garlic yogurt sauce, I wanted to share a different technique that’s just as simple, yet gives you a completely different mouth feel. Whole eggplants are chargrilled on the barbecue or roasted in the oven, leaving you with a soft & silky flesh that’s slightly charred on the inside.

I’ve given you two variations of this eggplant salad recipe, one with pine nuts, and one with pomegranate (seeds & syrup). Feel free to play around and use different herbs and spices. I often simplify the recipe and toss it with only spring onions, olive oil, lemon and Maldon Salt. Simple, clean, and delicious.

aubergine salad prep

Serve this salad on it’s own, or as a side dish to a more complex meal (it goes beautifully with white-fleshed fish such as grilled sea bass or halibut). It’s fabulous either way!

note: your eggplant will have a slightly smokier flavor if charred on the barbecue than when roasted in the oven.

Eggplant Salad (serves 4 as a side dish)

Ingredients:

  • Two medium whole eggplants
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt or Maldon salt (you might need more, check for seasoning after assembling your salad)
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • ¼ of a small red onion, thinly sliced

For the pine nut variation:

  • ¼ cup pinenuts, lightly toasted on a skillet

For the pomegranate variation:

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (“debs roman” in Arabic)
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 F) or your barbecue to medium-high heat.

Start by gently “stabbing” little slits all over the eggplant with a sharp knife (about 10-12 times). If using your oven, place the eggplant on a sheet pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes. Leave them relatively undisturbed, however you will have to turn them once or twice so they do not burn. You are looking for somewhat of a charred skin – don’t worry if you see black spots. Apply the same method if using the barbecue – you will need to turn the eggplant a bit more often.

Grilled whole eggplant vs baked aubergine

Once cooked, allow the eggplant to sit until cool enough to handle. Gently cut lengthwise in half, and start scraping the flesh away from the skin. Remember to get the black bits of the flesh – this is what will give your salad it’s characteristic smoky flavor.

the inside of a roasted eggplant.jpg

Tip # 1: try to avoid getting the black skin into your flesh, it can give the salad a bitter taste.

Tip # 2: If the eggplant is very “seedy” try to scrape out some of the seeds (not all) to get a smoother texture.

Once you’ve separated the flesh from the skin, drain the liquid over a strainer. The eggplant may contain a lot of water, so let it drain for a bit longer.

straining the aubergine flesh

removing bitter liquid from eggplant

eggplant aubergine flesh in white bowl

Add salt, olive oil, lemon juice, along with the green and red onions. If making the pine nut variation, add them now. If making the pomegranate version, add the seeds along with the syrup. Mix well, taste to check for seasoning, and serve.

eggplant and pomegranate syrup

Eggplant with herbs and pine nuts

aubergine eggplant salad with onion & pomegranate seeds

Bon appétit!

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My Vegan Blueberry Pancake Recipe

In an ideal world, my backyard would be an edible feast that would cater to all of my culinary whims. A haven where fruits and vegetables could grow in abundance, Mother Nature would change her menu according to the seasons and leave me with beautiful treasures to pick from her harvest. Since my gardening skills are virtually non-existent at this point, the next best thing is to pack my basket and head to the local farm, which I did over my summer holiday in Montreal.

la ferme quinn Quebec perspective photo

Located forty minutes outside of Montreal, La Ferme Quinn is my farm of choice whenever I take a trip to the Great White North (a nickname for Canada). Established in 1982, this family-run farm is one that has been passed on through the generations, and is home to some of the finest seasonal goodies in the region. Equipped with barn, a bakery, and a play yard, Quinn is the ideal place for children, big or small. Food lovers will be thrilled to know that there’s a shop stocked with locally produced artisanal foods and gourmet products, making it a win/win place to spend a family-centric afternoon.

quin farm front photo

kids play yard quinn farm

I had the chance to visit the farm twice over the summer. The first time was to hunt for blueberries, and my second visit was for the honey harvest (more on my “bee” experience in a future post).

closeup of a blueberry bush

After arriving at Quinn to pick our berries, we made a quick stop to the barn to visit a few resident animals before heading towards what seemed like endless rows of blueberry fields.

blueberry fiels in quebec

Armed with our farmer’s baskets, as well as a determination to pick enough fruit to last the summer, my children and friends quickly learned how to navigate through the bushes with ease, and managed to score some of the juiciest berries they had ever laid their eyes on!

girl picking berries

picking wild blueberries at the farm

brpther and sister picking bluebrries.jpg

Picking (and eating) our way through the bushes, my mind swirled with ideas of what to make with our indigo-fleshed fruit. Tarts, pancakes, and yogurt-topped breakfast bowls were the usual suspects on the top of my list, followed by jam, smoothies, and blueberry buttercream. In the end, we ate the berries mostly on their own, by the handful, fully savoring the sweetness that only Mother Nature can deliver.

blueberries Quinn Farm

This recipe was born out of my farm-to-table experience at Quinn.  It was also inspired by my beautiful niece,  who gave me a rundown behind the vegan philosophy. Although I probably won’t convert to a solely plant-based way of life anytime soon, I’m happy to try a vegan approach to cooking when I can make sound and delicious substitutions.

quebec maple syrup on plueberry pancakes

Trust me when I say that these are everything you could ever want in a pancake! Fluffy, moist, and packed with flavor, you might just need to make an extra batch….or two…or three.

Vegan blueberry pancakes (makes approximately 12 to 16 three-inch pancakes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • ¾ cup soy milk (you can substitute any nut milk of your choice)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil (if using coconut oil, make sure it’s in a liquid state)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 cup blueberries (you can use frozen, but your batter will risk turning blue)
  • Maple syrup to serve

Note that this recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if necessary.

Directions:

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon (if using) in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a bowl or a large measuring cup, combine soy milk, mashed banana, vanilla,  and lemon zest.

Slowly whisk wet mixture into the dry, gently fold in the blueberries, and stir until just combined (do not over mix – you don’t want a rubbery pancake!). Let the batter rest for at least five minutes for the leavening agents to do their thing.

Preheat a non-stick pan or electric griddle over medium high heat. Please keep in mind that your pan must be hot in order for the pancakes to develop their characteristic fluffiness.

Drop batter onto the hot pan in circles using a small ladle or quarter cup measure.

Once the batter starts developing bubbles on the surface and the bottom begins to brown, flip over onto the other side until cooked through.

Serve immediately and drizzle with as much (or as little) maple syrup as your heart craves.

Bon appétit!

vegan blueberry pancakes lidija's kitchen

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Hello September! A post-summer update

Green…

That’s the first thing that strikes me every time I re-visit Canada. From trees to grass – the viridescent landscape against the indigo sky gets me every time.

caledon ontario landscape canada

pretty house in ontario niagara-on-the-lake

As our two-month summer holiday came to an end last week, my husband and I packed up our family and headed back to Dubai from my hometown of Montreal. It was one of the longest holidays we’ve ever had, and to be quite honest, it was also one of the most memorable. It’s safe to say that bidding farewell to summer was bittersweet for all of us.

where canada meets the united states lake ontario

Easy, breezy summer days spent with family and friends proved to be the perfect antidote to the hot and sticky weather we faced as we fled Dubai just weeks before.

lidija on the lachine canal

girl holding summer squash and radish salad with fresh mint

cousins holding hands

Swimming lessons, barbeques, and outdoor birthday parties filled our days, which for the most part, felt endless and free.

summer bbq games

Armed with cheese, baguette, and fresh local produce, picnics in the park became part of our daily ritual, and road trips to Toronto, Niagara Falls, and New York City were welcome getaways that added spice to our holiday landscape.

new york view from central park

moments in cental park

a man and his camera

niagara falls lidija's kitchen

Rain or shine, we spent most of our time outside – trust me when I say that my kids would do cartwheels if they saw as much as a raindrop! Day trips to the local farm, as well as an impromptu pit stop at a peach orchard on our way to visit the local wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake were some of the many highlights of our trip.

little girl in a peach orchard ralph lauren floral dress

two sisters winery niagara-on-the-lake

From a culinary perspective, we ate well.

Maison Kaiser NYC.jpg

An epic lunch at Bar Pitti in New York wrapped up our getaway  perfectly.

For foodie friends that are looking at places to eat in Montreal, I’ll be sharing my favorite restaurants and food experiences on my blog next week, as well as recipes inspired by treasures from trips to the farmer’s market.

cow at quinn's farm

strawberries from the Atwater market montreal

tomatoes from the Atwater Market

Until then, I’ll leave you with a few images that sum up what I loved the most about our magical holiday. While my blog hiatus is officially over, and I’m somewhat sad to kiss summer goodbye, a new season of excitement is on the horizon!  A bientôt.

central park ducks

central park moments part two

Cousin love

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Demystifying the Tomahawk Steak – bringing the Caveman and Cavewoman into the modern era

The world of social media is an interesting place. If you told me that I would be a regular on Instagram when I started this blog, I would have thought you were insane! Fast forward over a year and a half, here I am, posting daily, engaging with followers, and finding inspiration in the digital world out there.

Creativity really has no boundaries.

What I find mind boggling about this world are the human connections that can take place over the sharing of a simple photograph. A like, a comment, and a simple exchange of encouraging words make this an extremely engaging platform, and one where you can let your imagination run wild and free. It’s the perfect online haven for you to share what you find meaningful, whether it’s a talent, a passion, a product, or a tiny piece of your life.

It was through Instagram that I met the people behind Les Gastronomes, a start-up online meat supplier based in Dubai (this is not a sponsored post). Michel, the owner, reached out after spotting my account and invited me to select any cuts I found inspiring.

The first thing that struck me was their black angus Tomahawk steak. Big, bold, and on a bone that’s the size of my arm (I’m not kidding), this epic piece of meat is a force to be reckoned with, and a culinary challenge worth taking on. I found it a little imposing at first, but in all honesty, it’s relatively simple to prepare if you follow a few basic rules. All you need is some coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a hot grill (or griddle pan), and you’re set for a carnivorous feast.

Massive Tomahawk steak

Trust me, you’ll never look at steak the same way again.

I served this baby with a white bean and roasted garlic purée, and a side of slow cooked baby onions. Add some roasted potatoes, along with whatever greens you fancy, and get ready to wow your guests, and seriously impress yourself in the process.

Cutting through a Tomahawk steak

Bon appétit!

Grilled Black Onyx Tomahawk steak with white bean and roasted garlic purée

Serves 4, or 2 very hungry cavemen/cavewomen

Ingredients for the Tomahawk:

  • One 1.4 kg to 1.6 kg Tomahawk – rib-eye steak on the bone
  • Coarse sea salt, enough to cover both sides of the meat (Maldon is always my favourite)
  • Cracked black pepper – place a small handful of peppercorns in a small plastic bag and give it a few whacks until the pepper is aromatic and breaks into coarse pieces

Directions:

Remove the meat from the refrigerator 1.5 to 2 hours prior to cooking in order to bring it to room temperature. (Note – If your Tomahawk comes frozen, you’ll need to thaw it in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours before you want to cook it)

Preheat grill or griddle pan over medium high heat.

Season both sides of the meat generously with salt and pepper, gently patting it on the flesh so it sticks to each side

Place the Tomahawk on the grill, and let it cook, undisturbed, for five minutes. You can close the grill, but you will need to monitor the meat so it does not flame up (keep the grill at medium to medium high heat).

tomahawk on the gril step 1

After five minutes, rotate the meat 45 degrees, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes longer, until the meat is beautifully grilled on the exterior (you want that characteristic grill mark pattern on the meat if possible).

Carefully lift the meat, as it is getting soft off the bone, and repeat on the other side for a total of 9 to 10 minutes.

tomahawk on the grill step 2

Note that the timings I’m giving you will result in a rare Tomahawk with a seared and crusted exterior. Add approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side if you would like a medium rare steak. I won’t go beyond a medium rare. Below is an internal temperature guide for your reference (you will need a meat thermometer to gauge the temperature).

meat internal temperature guide.png

Let the meat rest for 8 to 10 minutes to seal in the juices (cutting into it prematurely can result in dry meat).

how to grill a tomahawk steak

Ingredients for the white bean and roasted garlic purée:

  • 1 head garlic – bulb intact, with the top ¼ inch removed to expose the raw garlic
  • 400 grams of cooked white cannellini beans (you can use the equivalent in canned)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (taste to see if you need more)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)

Wrap the garlic bulb in foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the garlic is cooked through and reaches a consistency that’s as soft as butter.

 

Release the garlic from its bulb by gently squeezing through its bottom (the garlic will ooze out of each clove like toothpaste from a tube).

With a hand blender, purée the white beans, roasted garlic, olive oil, chicken stock, and salt. Blend until smooth and silky. Give it a quick taste and add more salt if needed.

 

grilled tomahawk steak with white bean mash

To serve: Carve into the meat, serve with the white bean purée, and savor every single juicy bite!

Carving a Tomahawk steak

grilled tomahawk with white bean puree and baby onions in wine

red wine

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In my kitchen: roasted eggplant with garlic yogurt & pomegranate

Cook with your hands. I’m convinced that there’s an invisible pipe that goes straight from your heart directly into your fingers, and there’s nothing better than eating a dish that has a little love running through it.

Using your hands teaches you about your ingredients – how things should feel when they’re raw, cooked, and combined. Having said that, there’s probably no food that I manhandle more than the eggplant, or aubergine as many refer to it. No matter what you call it, eggplant is something that I love, and has become somewhat of a staple in my kitchen. Grilled, roasted, baked, or all sauced up – there’s so much you can do with this plump, purple-skinned fruit, yes, its actually a fruit. I am talking about the dark shaded eggplant here as I have yet to try the white variety.

With a bitter taste and flesh that absorbs oil faster than moisturizer on cracked dry skin, cooking with eggplant can be tricky. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent its challenges by learning how to choose your fruit wisely.

Look for eggplant that is light in weight, with shiny, smooth skin free of bruises and blemishes. It should be firm but not hard with a round brown mark on the fat, bottom end – a brown slit on the bottom might mean more seeds.

Some say that you have to salt the eggplant to remove bitterness. If I have the extra time, I’ll add this step, but more often than not, I skip it. I don’t find salting it makes that much of a difference. If you want to try it, cut your eggplant into slices, salt it generously and let it hang out in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse it and pat it dry before cooking.

Add your oil right before cooking so that that it coats the surface of the flesh – that will help give your eggplant that beautiful brown finish.

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Yogurt and Pomegranate

Serves 4 to 6

For the eggplant:

  • 2 to 3 medium eggplant, washed, dried, and cut into 1 ½ inch slices (salted, drained, and rinsed if desired)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the garlic yogurt:

  • 400 grams plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

To garnish:

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional), lightly toasted

Preheat your oven to 210 Celcius, 410 Farenheit. Position your rack in the lower third of your oven.

Cut eggplant into slices and toss generously with olive oil.

slicing eggplant

Add salt, pepper, lemon, and oregano.

Place on a large baking tray, and bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until the bottom of the eggplant has started to turn brown.

eggplant on sheetpan

Turn the eggplant over and cook for another 15 minutes or until brown and soft. At this stage, you can eat the eggplant as they are (great as a vegetarian side dish). If you want to add the garlic yogurt, keep reading.

oven roasted eggplant slices

For the garlic yogurt:

Combine yogurt with garlic and salt. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

Place eggplant on a large dish or platter. Spoon and scatter the garlic yogurt over the eggplant and garnish with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts (if using).

roasted eggplant with garlic yogurt sauce and fresh pomegranite

Serve warm or cold.

eggplant with yogurt sauce and pomegranite with pine nuts

Bon appétit!

Photos by: Tara Atkinson Photography

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I got it from my mama! A Mother’s Day post & a currant scone recipe

There’s a comfort in baking that I find difficult to put into words. Maybe it’s the memory I have of my mother immersed in her dough-making process in our flour-dusted kitchen. Or maybe it’s because as a young girl, my eager little hands would wait in anticipation to indulge in the fruits of her labor. Running to the kitchen at the first whiff of freshly baked bread, I can still remember how happy she was when she baked – singing and smiling like she was in her own secret world. For my mother, baking was an outlet that went far beyond cakes, cookies, and pies. Less about the end result, baking was a creative, soul-quenching time that gave her the chance to disconnect and let her imagination run wild and free.

Now fully immersed in the throes of motherhood, I find the same comfort in the kitchen that my mother did (although my singing voice isn’t nearly as good as hers). When I bake, time could literally stop and I probably wouldn’t notice. Yes, I really do find it that therapeutic! Whether it’s something as simple as whipping up a batch up fresh scones, or a bit more elaborate like a four-layered cake dripping in puddles of chocolate ganache, I find solace in folding fresh cream, melting chocolate, and swirling my whisk through ribbons of sugar and softly whipped egg yolks.

in the kitchen making scone dough

lidija and scones

A tiny part of me hopes my children will have the same memories that I have of my mother – with our flour-dusted kitchen table and my mama-bear-hands covered in dough.

I got it from my mama, and I know she would be proud.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Classic Currant scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 & ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 140 grams unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch cubes and chilled
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk (alternatively you can use ¼ cup full fat plain yogurt or cream mixed with ¼ cup milk with a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • ½ cup dried currants
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* note that this recipe can be easily doubled if needed

Directions:

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

Put the flour mixture in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (you can also do this with an electric mixer or by hand). Pulse a couple of times to distribute the ingredients.

Add the butter to the flour, pulsing several times (as many as 40 times if your butter is super cold!). Remember not to run your food processor or mixer continuously at this point. You need to see little lumps of butter in the mixture.

Combine the milk, cream, egg, and vanilla in a bowl and mix until all the ingredients have been incorporated well.

Add the wet milk/egg mixture and the currants to the flour mixture.

With your hands, combine all the ingredients together without over-mixing.

Put the dough onto a large, lightly floured surface and form into a rough shaped disk, measuring approximately 2 to 3 inches high.

Cut rounds out of your dough using a fluted cookie cutter (alternatively, make free-form balls).

The amount of scones your dough will yield depends on the height of the dough and size of your scone cutter. This batch makes roughly 8 large to 14 small scones.

Place your shaped scones you’ve made on a parchment lined baking tray, and freeze for AT LEAST 30 minutes or longer (I usually make my scones the night before I serve them, and keep them in the freezer until ready to bake. You can also freeze the dough shapes for up to a month and use as needed. Remember to store them in airtight freezer bags if storing for a long period of time. you can bake the scones directly from the freezer).

scone dough shaped on a baking tray

Preheat your oven to 200 C (400 F) and position your baking rack in the center of the oven.

Bake the scones for 25 to 30 minutes (time varies depending on size), until tops are golden brown and the smell emanating from your oven is insanely delicious.

currant scones on cooling rack

hot scones ready to eat

Serve hot, cold, or in between.

scone tower part two

Bon appétit!

Photos by Tara Atkinson Photography 

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