Starry Nights at Chateau de Gudanes

 Exciting news to share!

We are so pleased to announce that we have been invited back this summer to lend a hand with workshops to be held at the magical Chateau de Gudanes. The Chateau is located in the small village of Chateau-Verdun nestled amongst the verdant hills in Midi-Pyrénées region of France. Karina and Craig Waters and their children Jasmine and Ben have undertaken the extraordinary task of restoring the beauty of this 18th century Chateau after many years of neglect. Their story is an inspiring one and since they can certainly tell it better than I, here is the link to their lovely website. The family has devoted much of the last three years to this vast project and it is so evidently a labour of love. Luckily, they believe that their journey and the history and beauty of the Chateau is meant to be shared. This July and August they will be opening the doors of the Chateau to host workshops focusing on culture, cuisine, history, restoration and the art of antique shopping.

Sarolta and I will be there to primarily run things in the kitchen but we will also be able to enjoy all the many pleasures life at the Chateau provides, from foraging for flowers and fruits on the Chateau grounds, excursions to nearby towns to visit flea markets, vegetable markets, bakeries and restaurants, to meeting locals for wine tastings, historical lectures, hikes in the local mountains as well as perhaps a lively game of pétanque in the town square.

This will be my third time cooking for workshops held at the Chateau and the kitchen there is one of my very favourite places to cook in the entire world. The space itself with its soaring ceilings, huge windows, antique work tables, ample space and beautiful light is a wonderful place to gather people together to cook, eat and share recipes and stories. The local cheeses, meats, fish, bread, vegetables and wine are a joy for both those who love to cook as well as those who simply love to eat. We are so thrilled to be spending our summer at this wonderful place. We would love to have you join us!

All the details regarding the different workshops, dates and prices are available on the Chateau de Gudanes website.

A bientôt!

xo J

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A Seasonal Menu for December

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A Menu for December
Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup with Cheese Straws
Beef Croustades with Mushrooms, Roasted Carrots and Brussels Sprout Leaves
Chocolate Brownie Tart with Cream and Pomegranate Seeds

The end of the year! I am feeling ready to say goodbye to 2016 and embrace a brand new year filled with promise. The past twelve months presented a number of challenges for me, both personally and professionally, but when I look back I feel so much gratitude. For the people, the places and the many new experiences 2016 held for me.

I also realize that those moments that I initially thought were sad and difficult often yielded the biggest gifts. I learned so much about love and friendship, strength and hope. Self-reliance and persevering. And now 2017, just around the corner, is shaping up to be filled with joy, travel, good food and spending time with people that I love. I feel blessed.

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Just in case you are looking for a bit of culinary inspiration for your New Year’s Eve feast I want to share a menu that may perfectly fit the bill. Each of these dishes were cooked and shared during the numerous parties and dinners we hosted over the Christmas season. Each one so enthusiastically enjoyed at the table. The soup, beef croustade and the dessert can all be done ahead which is always a gift when hosting meals for friends and family.

My cooking collaborator and sweet friend Diane has posted these recipes on her site, Nourishing Vancouver and so I will spare my fingers all of the unnecessary typing and simply thank her for her diligent writing and testing.

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I am hoping to make more time in the new year to share not only recipes here but thoughts and words from my life and kitchen as well as information on my upcoming adventures. My dear friend and business partner Sarolta and I have been invited back to the incredible Chateau de Gudanes to cook for workshops that will be held in July and August and we will again be offering our Italian culinary experience in September in Puglia. Dates and details will be coming in the next weeks. We would love to have you join us.

Until then, I hope these last days of the year are spent gathered around a dinner or lunch table with people that you love, immersed in the glow of good conversation, food and wine, dreaming about all the beauty that 2017 may hold. Happy New Year.

xo J

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A Seasonal Menu for November

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A Menu for November
 Butter Lettuce with Fuyu Persimmon, Pomegranate, Crisp Garlic and Blue Cheese Dressing
Seared Sockeye Salmon on Roasted Purple Potatoes with Aioli, Pickled Red Onion, Dill and Brussels Sprout Leaves
Pear and Dried Cherry Strudel with Ginger Cream

A quick post today to share this menu from November as our next one for December is right around the corner!

I am really in love with the combinations of flavours, colours and textures in this month’s menu and full credit for it’s creation goes to my cooking partner and sweet friend Diane over at Nourishing Vancouver. There are times when my creativity in the kitchen wanes and the simple question of “What’s for Dinner” seems daunting. This is where my collaboration with Diane is such a gift. We have a very similar sensibility when it comes to food and cooking, yet we come from very different culinary backgrounds. Diane will often have ideas about what should be on a seasonal menu that are brand new to me. Things I have never cooked, never even thought of cooking. As a cook and a teacher I think working outside my comfort zone is a very good thing for me.

When Diane and I met to discuss the November menu I didn’t have any one dish or even one mid-fall ingredient that was inspiring to me. I think that because of all the cooking and travelling I had been doing of late  I was feeling a bit tapped out. Luckily for me (and for you) Diane was full of ideas and had spent time thinking and researching and checking out what was going on in our local markets.

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There are a few standout components of this menu for me. First off, the pairing of the persimmon (which I LOVE) with blue cheese and hearts of butter lettuce. This first course looks elegant and is a great combination of flavours. My second “wow” moment of this menu was how creamy and delicious the purple potatoes featured in the main course are. I always think of purple potatoes as a bit of a gimmick somehow but the steaming and then pan frying method of cooking these yields a delicious and beautiful base for the seared fish with it’s dollop or mayonnaise and pickled red onions. This is a main course that I will go back to again and again.

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As always Diane and I added our own personal twists on the menu we chose. I used salmon instead of lingcod and added in a few Brussels sprout leaves for some colour on the main course plate. For dessert I used dried cherries in place of the cranberries and walnuts instead of almonds but the measurements and methods are the same. For this reason I will send you over to Diane’s site at Nourishing Vancouver for the recipes…

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Back soon with a festive menu for December. Until then stay warm and dry and sane during this holiday season!

xo J

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Sugo Making in Puglia and a Menu for September

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A Menu for September
Orecchiette Pasta with Tomato Sugo and Arugula
Grilled Zucchini with Mint and Lemon
Grilled Eggplant with Garlic and Basil
Peaches in Red Wine

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I have now been back in Vancouver for a few weeks after our culinary workshop in Puglia. What an amazing time we had with our small but mighty group of participants who came with such enthusiasm for learning about the culinary traditions in Southern Italy. Our main focus this year was to connect in a truly hands-on and meaningful way with local food artisans and home cooks. Butchers, bakers, cheese makers, farmers, vintners, olive oil producers and foragers and the people who take these raw ingredients and turn them into meals that there serve around their own table to family and friends. People opened up their homes and hearts to us and shared their knowledge and culinary philosophies with such generosity. It was simply a magical ten days.

Eating what is local and seasonal is a cultural tradition in Puglia and not a new, hip, culinary catch-phrase. There is a loose structure to weekly meals that vary slightly but are always rooted in regional ingredients and recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. This weekly meal plan goes something like this:

Monday – Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, favas, cicerchie) with vegetables. Or leftovers from the Sunday meal.

Tuesday – Pasta with sugo semplice, a simple tomato sauce.

Wednesday – Depending on what the main meal served on Monday this would once again be legumes with vegetables (a different legume, a different vegetable) or vegetables roasted in the oven with bread crumbs, olive oil and herbs.

Thursday – Sugo with sausage. This may or may not be served with pasta.

Friday – Fish! This could be a baked fish al forno with breadcrumbs and herbs or a pasta with seafood (maybe mussels?) or risotto with seafood (maybe prawns?).

Saturday – In winter it is traditional to serve cialledda calda which is a bread soup with vegetables and perhaps a poached egg. A great way to use up any stale bread from the week. A brodo (a vegetable or meat based broth) is also a Saturday staple or in spring/summer a pasta primavera or pasta with a fresh tomato sauce.

Sunday – Pasta al forno graces many Sunday family tables with a roasted meat served as well. Another favourite is a slow cooked tomato ragu with meats such as guanciale, sausage or braseaola. The ragu is served over pasta as the first course. The braised meat used to flavour the ragu is served as a second course.

This weekly menu obviously changes from family to family, season to season, depending on the occasion but I love that there is a starting point when planning out what’s for dinner or lunch each week.

As you can see from the list above tomato sugo is used in many different meals and in many different ways. And while some Italian families buy their jars of sugo from the store just like we do, there is still a tradition that many families embrace, an end of summer ritual of taking kilos and kilos of ripe tomatoes and turning those beauties into the many jars of sugo that can be used during the seasons when ripe tomatoes are simply not available.

This past September we visited the Lomurno family’s country house in Altamura where every year they spend a weekend to preserve the tomato harvest to share with their immediate and extended family. Patriarch Angelo welcomed us warmly and enthusiastically schooled us in the art of making tomato sugo. His daughter Annamaria and son-in-law Francesco patiently guided our group through the process. It was wonderful to see how eager our participants were to roll up their sleeves and taking part is this late summer tradition. To see the love and care and hard work that goes into making sugo was humbling. I don’t think anyone in our group will ever look at a “simple” jar of tomato sauce in quite the same way…

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My September Seasonal Menu is an homage to that beautiful day with such extraordinary people. I rounded out the main course of orecchiette with sugo and arugula with a couple of simple grilled vegetable dishes. Eggplant was grilled dry and then tossed with some extra virgin olive oil that was spiked with finely chopped garlic and a chiffonade of basil. The zucchini was lightly brushed with the olive oil, grilled and then topped with chopped basil and a bit of lemon zest. To keep with the light, fresh summer flavours I chose ripe peaches, quickly blanched to remove the skin and then sliced and macerated in red wine that had been sweetened with some sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.

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This month’s menu doesn’t really require any recipes but if you happen to have some ripe summer tomatoes around and feel like making a fresh sugo or you want to try your hand at making your own orecchiette pasta you can find the recipes here.  My inspiration for the peaches in red wine came from here.

A special thanks to the Lomurno family and to our wonderful group of participants for the magical memories from that sunny, summer day in Puglia.

xo J

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A Seasonal Menu for August

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A Menu for August
BBQ Pork Ribs
Fire Roasted Corn Salad with Tomatoes and Feta
Celery and Radish Slaw with Blue Cheese and Bacon
Potato Salad Vinaigrette with Haricot Verts
Blueberry and Apricot Crumble

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Determined to get up this month’s menu on time! Photos are uploaded and the menu for August is printed. Running around now getting ready to leave for Italy on Friday for our culinary tour and so the actual recipes for this month will have to wait for a few more days. Coming soon!

I hope that everyone is enjoying these last few precious days of summer.

xo J

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A Seasonal Menu for July

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A Menu for July

Trout Rillette on Toasts with Green Salad Vinaigrette
Paella
Summit Blueberry Tarts

I just arrived home from our three weeks in France where my business partner and dear friend Sarolta and I cooked our hearts out for the Messors Decorative Art Restoration that was held at the inspiring Chateau de Gudanes. As always, I was hoping to have this post up before now but between preparing the kitchen, sourcing ingredients and then cooking for a truly wonderful group of participants who attended this workshop the time for blogging slipped away and so here we are.

I will be sharing my photographs and some thoughts from our time in the Pyrenees in the coming week but first, here is a menu that I worked on with my seasonal menu project collaborator Diane, of Nourishing Vancouver, which is perfect for the summer weather we are finally enjoying here in my home town. Happy to be home and cooking again in my Vancouver kitchen!

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I prepared our first course for this menu while I was working at the Chateau with local trout, both fresh and smoked, and used the delicious French demi-sel butter along with some herbs and lemon. Easily made ahead it was wonderful spread on pieces of a toasted, rustic bread filled with seeds and nuts and organic flour made by a local woman Marianne who truly bakes her bread with love and care. All that was needed to accompany it was some salad greens dressed in a simple mustard vinaigrette.

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While I was still in Vancouver I made the paella. This is not something that is in my regular repertoire but suggested by Diane and I was so glad for this inspiration! Making paella is very straightforward and the perfect dish to make for a mid-week dinner for family or for a celebratory meal for a large group. In doing some research on this dish from the province of Valencia in Spain I came to understand there are as many versions of paella as there are people who make it. Purists call for it to be made with only chicken and rabbit, perhaps snails, never seafood, and only with a very specific type of rice, Calasparra to be precise. In the end the main focus should always be on the rice and how to cook it to achieve the much sought tender texture and the crispy crust on the bottom, known as socarrat, that is the hallmark of what is ultimately a very versatile dish. I did add seafood and chicken and sausage, seasoning the rice with saffron and pimentón. It may not be entirely traditional but the results were truly delicious.

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Dessert was also Diane’s brilliant idea. This is a recipe that she created while working as a pastry chef a few years ago. Over the years she has tweaked the amount of sugar added to the filling and when we enjoyed it at a dinner we shared before I left on my travels we were all thrilled with the way the sweet/tart flavours of the blueberries and the lemon shine through. This tart is quite straight-forward to make, even for someone like me, who has a slight fear of making pastry. You can find the recipe and the story behind the Summit Blueberry tart over on Diane’s site here.

In keeping with these last few months, I am only home for a few weeks before heading back to Italy to host Kitchen Culinaire’s Culinary workshop in Puglia. There happen to be a few spots left if you would care to join us. It will be 8 days of eating and drinking and hands-on cooking with local people who will open their home kitchens and hearts to teach us how to make the beautiful cuisine of this amazing region.

Until then there are birthdays to celebrate (my sweet son turns 15 this month!), meals to share with friends and family (hopefully al fresco) and planning and packing to do. August’s seasonal menu is on the way.

I hope that you are all enjoying these last precious weeks of summer.

xo

 

 

 

 

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Seasonal Menu for June

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A Menu for June

Roasted Asparagus with Tarragon Mustard Crème Fraîche and Prosciutto
Seared Trout with Pernod Braised Fennel
Strawberries in Caramel Vinegar with Mascarpone Cream

Our time in Europe is finally winding down, at least until next month!

We have shared some beautiful meals with friends from Canada, France, England, Australia the U.S. and Italy. We have enjoyed glasses of rosé wine, shopped for linens and vintage plates and walked for hours and hours.

I am feeling ready to head home tomorrow to see my family and spend time in my Vancouver kitchen to begin tweaking recipes and menus for the upcoming Chateau de Gudanes Art Restoration Workshop that is being run by our friends at Messors. It will be a quick turn around, just 3 weeks in Vancouver, but hopefully there will be enough time to do laundry, repack the kitchen equipment suitcase and then get back on the plane rested and ready for a new adventure.

For this month’s menu Diane and I had our planning session way back in early May and so what I had thought I would find in the Paris markets has changed a bit over these last weeks. I also envisioned a slightly more formal menu with a somewhat fancy dessert and a more substantial main course but after enjoying some rather rich meals during our time in Paris, something lighter and simpler is what we felt like cooking and eating.

We are in a rented apartment in Paris which is relatively well-equipped both in terms of the pots and pans as well as pantry items. However, as were were heading into our last days I wasn’t wanting to be buying special ingredients that would be left behind upon our departure. This menu allowed me to use what we had in the fridge and the cupboards and required no special equipment to make.

The salad of roasted asparagus with tarragon mustard crème fraîche and prosciutto is the epitome of easy, the components can all be prepped ahead of time and then it is just about assembly. The original recipe calls for grilling the asparagus and for a grainy mustard for the crème fraîche but we had no grill so the oven stood in for roasting instead of grilling and there was tarragon mustard in the fridge and so in was used instead. And, as is so often the case, I ended up loving the flavour of the tarragon mustard and this is how I will make this sauce in the future.

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For the main course we had trout, fennel and salted butter in the fridge and the remaining ingredients in the pantry. I absolutely love how meltingly tender the fennel becomes after just eight minutes in the pan and the splash of Pernod adds a second layer of anise flavour. This fennel would be great along side a roasted loin of pork or lamb.

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And for dessert? Fresh, fragrant, ripe strawberries that are macerated in a caramel that is made with red wine vinegar. This is recipe I learned years ago when I took a cooking class here in Paris and while it sounds a little strange to put vinegar in a sweet dish it really does work here. The few grinds of black pepper really enliven all of the other flavours. The mascarpone cream is optional but we had some in the fridge from the previous day’s cooking class and decided to garnish the berries with it.

Not at all the menu I had planned but somehow perfect for this last week in Paris.

Before I go back to trying to fit all my treasures into my already overweight suitcase Sarolta and I want to say a huge thank-you to all of the people who came out to share in our cooking workshops here. It was a pleasure and a privilege to cook, eat, learn and share with you!

xo J

 

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A Seasonal Menu for May

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A Menu for May

Prawn Carpaccio with Prawn and Tomato Oil, Coriander and Lime
Seared Halibut with Salsa Verde and Scafata
Walnut Cake with Crème Fraîche

How is it possible it is already mid June?! I am obviously way, way behind on posting this menu for May but I suppose I just need to adopt the attitude of “better late than never” this time around.

This past month I was in Italy volunteering for my third season with Messors, an organization that runs culinary and shepherding workshops in Puglia. We stay and work in a farmhouse in the country where we cook and eat and learn from people who are passionate about keeping food and cultural traditions alive and sharing them with participants from around the world. Each year I come away inspired by the people that I meet, the food that we cook, the beauty of the landscape and the generosity of spirit of Italians that share their way of life with us.

Being that the internet connection in the country in southern Italy is somewhat spotty and the days are filled with magical activities and often begin very early and continue late into the night there is not a lot of time for blog posting or time on the computer at all. This is another gift from my time in Italy each year. A time to unplug, to live a bit more in the moment, to do just one thing at a time. It does not, however facilitate timely blog posts!

Now I am in Paris, with my dear pal and business partner Sarolta where we are hosting a few cooking classes, meeting with people regarding upcoming potential collaborations in Europe and working on menus and seeking out food inspiration for an upcoming workshop at Chateau de Gudanes that is being organized and run by the Messors team in France in July/August.

My menu for June will feature ingredients that are currently in season in the Paris markets and I promise to have it up before the end of the month.

But now, back to May!

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May is the beginning of spot prawn season in Vancouver and so Diane and I decided that we wanted to feature them in this month’s menu. A recipe for a prawn carpaccio with prawn oil, coriander and lime caught our eye. With this starter in mind we decided to keep with the spring seafood theme and cook a halibut with salsa verde and an Italian inspired vegetable ragout called scafata.

Our starter and main were relatively light and so it felt right to round out the meal with a walnut cake that would be anointed with a sweetened crème fraîche.

Before I left for Europe Diane and I got together in my kitchen, tied on our aprons and cooked the halibut dish and the dessert together. While I have made and taught the fish and salsa verde many times before it was our first time cooking the vegetables and the cake. This is a part of my collaboration with Diane that I value the most: to cook a new dish and honestly assess if it works, in terms of flavour, method, seasonality. Where it is easy to honestly critique a dish and not have any preconceived attachment or ideas about if a dish works or not. We played with the vegetables in the scafata and seriously adapted the walnut cake recipe.

We cooked and talked and then photographed our lunch before enjoying the fruits of our labour together. It was a lovely and delicious way to spend the afternoon.

As it was just a bit too early to find local spot prawns in the market we decided to make the carpaccio separately, Diane in her home kitchen in Vancouver and me in my rented apartment kitchen in Puglia. It is here that I must fall on the sword and offer a full disclosure. In southern Italy it was impossible to find spot prawns and so I substituted local prawns caught in the nearby waters of the Adriatic sea. The prawns I found at the fishmonger in Italy were fantastically fresh and flavourful and while I dutifully followed our chosen recipe in the end I was disappointed. I felt the added flavours really just masked the beautiful, fresh flavour of the prawns themselves and the recipe itself was simply too time consuming.

Perhaps Diane, back in Vancouver, had a cook’s intuition about the prawn recipe as she decided to switch gears and make a green gazpacho with grilled spot prawns instead. Smart lady.

I include the link to the prawn carpaccio here for those of you who are interested but I encourage you to visit Diane’s site at Nourishing Vancouver for her gazpacho which looks amazing and something I will certainly be making upon my return home. Diane has also graciously written out the recipes for the halibut and the walnut cake along with her always meticulous notes. These last two recipes are keepers in my mind and so I encourage you to give them a try.

Until our next menu for June, happy cooking!

xo J

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