Sunday, October 31, 2010

First snow!

It snowed last night! Just a couple of centimetres, and it wasn't cold enough for any to stick - this is what was left this morning and it was melting fast! No more snow is forecast for awhile and it should still be another month or so before our first big snowstorm (which hit December 7th last year, the day before I was due to fly out to Australia) Still, the snow is a big reminder that winter is on its way!

(It is Halloween today and you can see our little pumpkin sitting there, waiting to be carved this afternoon! I don't think we have decided on a design yet, but I am guessing it will be something appropriately geeky! More details and pictures to follow!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This is not going to end well

for the mouse.

Yes, the little grey mouse that just ran across my kitchen floor. Actually it is running across my floor as I write......

Poor mouse.
It chose the wrong house.
It does not know what I do for a living.

No pictures because it is moving too quickly....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Look who made the newspaper!!

It's Perth!!

It's a little funny - the author's husband was sent to Perth for work for two months and she went with him. So she has written an article about them hiring bikes for the day and exploring the foreshore and the river and everything, and it is all very complimentary and lovely. At the end of the article is a little blurb saying that Air Canada connects to Perth through other Australian cities as well as through Asia. There is no mention as to how much it actually costs to get all the way from the east coast of North America to the west coast of Australia, nor tell you that it will take nearly 24 hours of flying time and up to 15 hours of transit time to complete the journey! Which is a good thing really, since Montrealers kind of freak out about the 6 hour flight to LAX......

You can read the full article on the Gazette's website here. The Gazette is Montreal's daily English newspaper.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Burger binge!

Lately I have been craving - and indulging in - burgers!

First, a couple of weeks ago, it was at the newly opened Burger de Ville on Saint Laurent, for comfort food on a rainy Montreal night. I had the "black and blue" - the burger patty was encrusted with ground peppercorns and topped with blue cheese. Delicious! Then Thursday, it was a catch up at McKibbins, on Bishop. Their burgers are always good, however, we noticed a special burger menu out the front which piqued our interest. I took the Buffalo burger, which came basted in hot sauce and topped with blue cheese (There is pattern here obviously). I don't think I have even eaten a Buffalo chicken wing before, but that didn't deter me - the burger was amazing, with just the right amount of bite. G's "la Francais" burger, with brie and bacon, also looked pretty damn good.....

You would think after all of this I would be sick of burgers, but the Buffalo burger at McKibbins was *so* good, I wanted to try and recreate it at home. So behold.....

I have to say, this was super easy to make but very, very delicious. I kept the patty simple - just lean minced beef (oops, I almost wrote ground beef there - another North Americanism that is slipping into my vocabulary!) seasoned with salt and pepper, which I cooked in the pan. I preheated the pan on high, and seared on side of the patty first. Watch the meat change colour up the side of the patty so you know when to flip. Once flipped I liberally applied tabasco sauce to the crust, and then topped it with two, ahem, generous slices of blue cheese. As the patty finishes cooking, the cheese softens quite nicely. I topped the burger with some lettuce, sliced tomato and dill pickle, and a smear of BBQ sauce. It went down very nicely and with that, I can honestly say I have exhausted my burger craving!

(well, for awhile at least!)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Braised cabbage and maple syrup....?

So, say someone had a fridge full of Thanksgiving leftovers. And say, that person woke up one morning and wanted some pumpkin pie for breakfast. And then... say that person really wanted to "balance out" their pumpkin pie breakfast (which came complete with whipped cream and maple syrup), that person might just decide that braised cabbage and apple would be the perfect foil, and whack a scoop onto their not yet licked clean plate that held the pumpkin pie. And you know what that person would have found out? That the smears of maple syrup leftover from the pie went perfectly and deliciously with the braised cabbage! Yum yum yum yum yum!

(and then that person might just google this combination and find out she is not the first person in the world to figure this out. Oh well, if you didn't know about it, try it out - tonight! And if you don't have any maple syrup on hand? Let me know and I will send you some!)

(upon reflection, it should be pretty obvious. When is it not appropriate to add maple syrup to something? Obviously I have learnt nothing in Canada.......)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The end of the farmer's markets

Montreal has some wonderful, all-year farmer's markets (Marche Atwater and Marche Jean Talon are the biggest and best) but, during the summer, lots of little neighbourhood farmer's markets pop up as well. Last year a couple of organisations (Le Sud-Ouest Montreal, Nourrir Montreal and Agriculture, Pecheries et Alimentation Quebec) started an initiative to bring low cost, healthy, fresh food to some of the, well, poorer neighbourhoods. Lucky me, they started one in Verdun, at the Parc du Souvenir, right near the Verdun metro. Open on Fridays 3pm - 8pm, and Sundays 9am - 3pm, the market is a very welcome addition - the produce is local and super fresh and the prices are super cheap! (Think five jalapenos for $1!) I love it! And though it is small, I think that is part of its charm. I really don't enjoy the "challenge" of trying to find the best produce or the best price at the different stalls in the larger markets, so this "one stall" version, that you can see below, suits me just fine!

It was also at this market that I discovered Sweet Lee's Rustic Bakery, a brother-sister baking team that sells a pretty huge array of muffins and cheesecakes and cookies and crumbles and..... you get the idea! They are looking to open a bricks and mortar stall in St Henri soon, but manned a stall at the market to sell their wares and drum up business! Yum! I would often buy a vegie muffin to nibble on whilst I decided on my fruit and veg....

But, as I alluded to in the title - this weekend marked the final weekend for the market. The cooling weather, the end of the harvest and the fast approaching first snow fall mean that a little outdoor market can't survive the winter. It is part of the cycle of life here in Montreal, and is something that takes a little getting used to for an Australian! But the markets will be back next year and so in February, when it is -25C outside and the little park is covered in snow and I am hurrying past to get into the warmth of the metro, I know one of the things I will be looking forward to!

Balcony! Critters! Basil!

The nights are getting colder and it is almost time to bring in the plants on my balcony. I am not sure where I am going to put them all - in my rush of planting this Spring I forgot about the fact that they can't stay outside all year. I have too many pots this year to just keep them on the kitchen floor as I did last winter!

One thing I do know - there are some little critters who are going to be very sad to see them go! I only hope they haven't hidden too many of their goodies in my plants......

I can't take any credit for it, though I do take pride - when I planted these basil plants they were nestled *under* the geranium! I was worried they weren't going to do well! I have eaten caprese salad all summer and still have not made a dent in it! I should have borrowed a food processor and made a kilo of pesto!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scenes from an alley on the Plateau

 Fall in Montreal is a beautiful time of year and this past long weekend (Canadian Thanksgiving) was gorgeous!

 Even the slowly shrivelling summer flowers were looking good 

This is the back of a triplex (a three storey apartment building with one apartment per floor). The red ivy was just shining in the morning sun! These "back" balconies are quite common and very popular - most people have a little BBQ set up for summer time grilling and some planter boxes for herbs and flowers.

Not all of the foliage has turned yet. There are many cats on the Plateau and this guy's favourite place is hiding in the leaves on this low stone wall. Whilst other cats around M's house are super friendly (Pistache, the white cat, the subject of a later post) this one is shy and doesn't like to be petted. I am not sure where he will hide once all the leaves fall!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Canadian Thanksgiving! (l'Action de grâce)

It was Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday the 11th October and we hosted a dinner for friends on the Saturday night prior.

On the menu:

Roast boneless legs of Quebec lamb
marinated in a mixture of garlic, rosemary and lemon

(This was partly a nod to Australia and partly because many of our guests were going to be eating turkey on Sunday or Monday)

Roasted cauliflower

Roasted brussel sprouts with fennel pancetta and hazelnuts

Potatoes cooked in bay-infused milk (thanks for the tip H!)
The potatoes were a highlight for me, mainly because I was a little skeptical of the style of cooking - you saute the potatoes in butter first, then simmer then in milk. It seems counter-intuitive and you think 'why would you simmer something that you have made golden and slightly crisp?', but it really works and they are delicious! I am thinking about other vegetables I could try with this method and what other liquids I could simmer them in (Parsnips in milk, yes! Carrots in orange juice? Maybe....!) 

Braised red cabbage with onions and apples (again, H's tip!)

Fresh herb sauce with mustard, rosemary and mint

(no photos of all the sides unfortunately, everything was go, go, go once the lamb was ready)

and...... the whole reason for hosting the dinner

Pumpkin Pie!

(a silky smooth version from Smitten Kitchen)

Served with maple syrup and whipped cream, oh so delicious!! I made this last year and won a few fans, it is definitely the best version I have tasted. The secret to this pie is that you pass the filling through a sieve, which takes out any coarseness or stringiness left over from the pumpkin. It also means that it actually works better with canned pure pumpkin puree (not the pre-seasoned pumpkin pie filling, not freshly made pumpkin puree), which makes preparation even easier. And though I forgot to take a picture, please know that I baked four of these babies, just because "leftovers are mandatory!"

It was a fantastic night! Though Thanksgiving is not a holiday that I feel a strong connection with (although I guess I am thankful for the harvest, since you can probably tell, I am in it for the food!) it was a lovely reminder of how thankful I am that my life in Montreal is as wonderful as it is!