A Seasonal Menu for February

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A Menu for February
Avocado, Beet and Watercress Salad with Lime and Crème Fraîche
Really Easy Duck Confit
Roasted Fennel with Oranges and Pepper Flakes
Pears Poached in Red Wine with Mascarpone Cream and Toasted Pistachios
Chocolate-Dipped Florentines

I cook a lot.

I host a lot of dinner parties and (happily) people even pay me to teach them how to cook and host dinner parties.

Gathering people around the table for a meal is an important and joyful part of my life. So, it is no exaggeration to say that I really love to plan menus. I love to think of what is in season and to figure out the pieces of the puzzle that makes a good meal. Ensuring that there is a rhythm to it, that the dishes work together in harmony and that I can pull off a meal without being wild-eyed and exhausted by the time the food is on the table. Still… I sometimes struggle with planning a menu and making it fresh and inspiring, simple but interesting and to not just rely on the tried and true dishes that I have cooked and served over and over again…

This is why I am so excited to be working on a seasonal menu project with Diane Owen. Diane trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London, taught cooking classes and worked at Bishop’s restaurant in Vancouver. She is a passionate cook and she seems to love menu planning as much as I do! We sat down a few weeks ago and planned a menu based on favourite dishes we had been recently cooking and what we thought worked well and was in season during February. It was so much fun to thumb through our favourite cookbooks, talk about particularly memorable meals that we have cooked and eaten and people who have joined us at the table.

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Both of us agreed that when we sit down to plan a menu we generally start by picking the main protein and build a meal around it. Diane suggested cooking duck legs for our first menu and we quickly agreed on using the “easy duck confit” method. I have taught this method of cooking duck legs at many a class and people are always surprised to discover how easy it is to make delicious, French bistro-style, duck confit at home. We had our protein.

From there we decided to focus on some bright flavours of citrus and so roasted fennel with blood oranges seemed a good fit alongside the richness of the duck.

Salad course? We were initially drawn to the idea of greens paired with more citrus but decided to go in another direction with roasted beets, avocado, crab and crème fraîche served as a composed salad that we have both made and loved in the past. There is still a nod to winter citrus with a good kick of lime juice in the vinaigrette as well as some heat from jalapeño chills.

For dessert Diane told me about a lovely red wine poached pear recipe she makes that is served with a mascarpone cream and served alongside handmade florentines. Perfect.

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We had our menu! Now it was time to head off to make the meal in our own homes for our own friends and families. This is where things got interesting for me. Even though our core, three-course menu was the same, the way we decided to round out our meals is where our own personalities and food/cookings styles and preferences emerged. We both made the meal for friends but Diane chose dinnertime to serve it and I went with lunch. She added a few hors d’oeuvres to start and some black pepper and fennel popovers, while I made duck fat potatoes and sautéed the beet greens from the salad in olive oil with garlic. There was no crab available at my local fish shop and so I left it out. Diane made pistachio florentines and I used the sliced almonds I had on hand to make mine. Together, we rejigged the fennel and orange dish after we both made it and decided to cook the fennel a little less and add in the oranges at the end. We both decided we wouldn’t change a thing about the red-wine poached pears with the mascarpone cream.

Diane has graciously posted the recipes for our menu (except the duck fat potatoes and sautéed beet greens) over on her site at Nourishing Vancouver. She has also beautifully written about her process in the kitchen and much more about our upcoming project together.

Tomorrow we will meet to plan our menu for March. I can hardly wait! xo J

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Join Us In Paris!


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A Moveable Feast in the City of Light

Come and explore the many epicurean delights that Paris has to offer. For ten days, we will search out the freshest ingredients at local markets and in the shops of artisan bakers, butchers, cheese-mongers and confectioners. The Sunday Raspail Market, Rue Mouffetard, Rue Cler Market, outstanding bakeries Poilâne and Du Pain et des Idées, French chocolate meccas Etoile D’or and La Mere de Famille are all on our itinerary. We will taste test macarons from famed bakeries Ladurée, Pierre Hermé and Gerard Mulot, seek out the best baguettes in the city, sample a selection of incomparable demi-sel butters and spend an afternoon tasting wines and cheeses from some of the top French producers.

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A big component of our days together will be centered on hands-on cooking classes in the gourmet kitchen of our light-filled apartment in 10th Arrondissement. These classes are designed to be informal yet informative and are always filled with laughter. After exploring nearby food-centric streets such as rue de Abessess and rue des Martyrs, we will spend two afternoons and three evenings, wine glasses in hand, gathered around the stove preparing some French-themed meals with all of the goodies we have gathered.

Two lunches and a dinner at classic cafés and our favourite off-the beaten-track bistros will keep us moving around the city on foot and by metro. While there is a food-related activity planned daily there will still be plenty of time to check out museums, galleries and historical sites in the city and beyond. Paris is a food lover’s paradise and we look forward to making the most of our delicious daily discoveries! As we are wanting this to be an intimate experience, we are limiting the number of guests to 10 people. We hope you can join us.


     This 10-day tour runs from June 17th to June 26th 2016 and includes:

  • 10 day guided culinary and cultural tour
  • visits to artisanal bakers, chocolate and candy shops, butchers and cheese mongers
  • 2 lunch and 3 dinner demonstration cooking classes and lectures
  • tastings of tea and macarons, cheeses, demi-sel butters, regional wines and an appetizer workshop
  • 2 lunches and 1 dinner at some of our favourite cafés and bistros

Price per person is 2030 Euro, all taxes included.

For additional information or to check availability, please contact us at events@kitchenculinaire.com

To confirm your spot on the tour a nonrefundable deposit of $500 is required along with your full name and birthdate as per passport. The nonrefundable balance of the tour cost will be due 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is strongly recommended.

Travel arrangements by Finistera Travel – Consumer Protection BC 70260

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Roasted Fennel with Orange and an Upcoming Project


Finally a new recipe to share as well as details on an upcoming project I am excited to be working on.

This recipe is from the recently published Gjelina cookbook that I have been cooking from A LOT over the past few months. The restaurant is located in Venice Beach, California  and I have been lucky enough to visit and enjoy some seriously good food there. The cookbook is a thing of beauty with inspiring, accessible recipes from Gjelina Chef Travis Lett and gorgeous photos and styling by the talented team of Nikole Herriott and Michael Graydon. This fennel salad with blood oranges and a hit of chilli is dead simple and pairs well with fish, chicken or even as part of a vegetarian menu.

Speaking of menus I am working with a dear friend and fellow cook, Diane Owen, in planning and posting a seasonal monthly menu here on my site as well on Diane’s site Nourishing Vancouver.

Diane and I originally connected during a culinary tour years ago and have been cooking and talking about food together ever since.  We decided to team up to combine our talents to plan, cook and share a monthly menu that will be prepared in our respective kitchens, enjoyed with friends and family and written about on our websites. It is a great way to get focused on what is in season in our Vancouver markets and share ideas and tastes and tips and encourage feedback from our local food community.

For our inaugural menu we decided to focus on taking a sunny, palate vacation during what can be one of the most challenging culinary months of the year. Citrus fruit and juice combined with crispy, liquorice tinged fennel, we paired this dish with duck confit. We rounded out the savoury component of the menu with a crab, beet and avocado salad with crème fraîche that we served as our starter. We ended the meal with red wine poached pears and mascarpone cream and some chocolate dipped florentines. A simple, doable and delicious menu.

Each month we will plan a new menu, host a dinner and talk about what worked (and what didn’t). Many people find hosting a dinner party, even for family and/or good friends, to be an intimidating undertaking. Diane and I hope to help demystify the process and ensure that your next dinner party is not only delicious but relaxing and enjoyable for you and your guests!

I will post our first full menu with photos in the next days. Diane has the menu and recipes listed over on her site up now, as well as hors d’oeuvre suggestions and cooking notes. It is a joy to work with Diane on this project and we look forward to hearing from you for upcoming menu recommendations and/or dishes that you love to use to entertain with over the next months. Stay tuned…



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Time in the Kitchen

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There were so many things that I could have/should have been doing today. Catching up on accounting, sending emails, doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom. But…today I felt the pull of the kitchen, my very favourite place in the house. I decided now was the moment to take a bit of time and chop, roast, plate and photograph.

I sliced the red onions, chopped the fennel and scrubbed the carrots. Arranged them on a baking sheet, drizzled them with my favourite olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. Swirled some harissa through some yogurt, put some lentils on the stove to boil, chopped some mint and pistachios.

It was a rainy afternoon so the light wasn’t perfect for photographing but still, it was good enough.

There was a very good lunch and an hour or so of creativity. Mind and body nourished.

Happy Saturday.


This lunch is adapted from a recipe by My New Roots and was first cooked and enjoyed with my friend Melissa.

xo J

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Rigatoni with Spicy Cauliflower and Leftovers

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Monday lunch for one on a cold and cloudy afternoon.

Our dinner two nights ago was pasta with roasted cauliflower, made spicy by the addition of a red chilli and garlic. We grilled Italian sausages and also some peppers that I peeled, seeded and added to a bowl with some capers, more garlic and a few glugs of very good olive oil.

Today, rooting through the fridge I tossed everything together, sans the sausage, and added in a handful of parsley, some shavings of Parmigiano cheese and a sprinkling of salt. More olive oil.

Kitchen diary January 18th, 2016.

xo J

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Kitchen Culinaire Workshop in Puglia

There is so much that has happened since my last post. We hosted a truly amazing group of participants at Masseria La Selva for our very first culinary tour in beautiful Puglia, Italy.

Bill and Judy, Pat and Leigh-Anne, Jill and Victoria, Vivian Grace, Sheryl, Lorraine, Ross, Stephanie, Lynn and Adrienne, Joanne, Max, Lisa and Paolo.  Every single person came with an open heart, an open mind and a real desire to cook, eat, learn and share.

I wanted to share a beautiful series of short videos that my sister Lisa took over the course of our 8 day adventure together. The brief interviews that accompany the images were done by my sweet son Max.  He asked each of the participants as well as two of our amazing Italian colleagues, Santina and Francesco, what was their favourite moment of our time together. The beauty of the images and words fill my heart with gratitude and make me miss each person and the magic we shared as a group.

xo J


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Kitchen Culinaire Goes to Puglia!

Masseria La Selva

We have arrived!

After months of planning we have arrived at Masseria La Selva in Puglia and are busy getting ready to welcome our 15 participants for our first culinary tour in Italy.

So excited to show everyone the beauty of this region and to tie on our aprons to cook, eat, and share some amazing meals together.

xo J

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A European Culinary Adventure


Le Grand Aioli

I have been meaning to spend some time here on my site. I have been meaning to put up a recipe, to tell you what I have been up to on the cooking front. I have been meaning to share some news about a couple of amazing opportunities to do some cooking and learning and teaching in Europe this summer.

Somehow it just never happened. Now I am literally sitting at the airport waiting for my flight which leaves in 2 hours that will take me to Bari, Italy.

I am so excited about the next couple of months. Maybe that is why I never wanted to post about it here. I still can’t believe the people I will be cooking with and the places I will be travelling to. Perhaps I might have jinxed it had I written about it.

Now, the adventure is about to begin and since I am hoping to share the journey here through a few words and more photos I better fill you in on what is happening.

For the next two weeks I will be going back to Italy to volunteer with my good friends at Messors for their culinary tour at the Masseria La Selva in Puglia. You can read about my love affair with this place that started when I volunteered last July.

After the Messors  tour is complete I will be scouting locations and activities and meeting people who bake and make cheese and grow grapes around Puglia for my own culinary tour this September. I love this part of Italy and the amazing people so much. To be able to take people with me and introduce them to this inspiring region is a dream come true.

In mid June my husband will join me in Italy for eight days of eating, drinking and exploring before we meet our son in France. We will spend some family time in Paris before we make our way down to the Midi Pyrénées to go on another culinary adventure.

Once again, through the fine folks at Messors, I have been given an opportunity to learn and grow and be inspired as a cook. Messors is hosting their first ever, outside of Italy, restoration workshop. It is to be held at a chateau near Toulouse called Chateau de Gudanes. I can’t even begin to explain the beauty of this place, or the history or the rather extraordinary undertaking of one Australian family to restore this historically fascinating structure. You can learn more about the Chateau itself here and about the upcoming workshop here. I will be working hard in the kitchen to provide meals for participants and have been busy in my Vancouver kitchen recipe testing dishes that celebrate this region of France that I will be visiting for the very first time.

As I sit here, waiting for my flight to be called, I have such a mix of emotions. I already miss my family so much. I am nervous and excited in equal measure. I can’t wait to see my friends in Italy. I am trying not to think too far ahead but to remind myself to enjoy the moments on each of these adventures as they come. I’m looking forward to meeting new people, eating new things, stretching myself in kitchen, cooking with love, exploring new regions and making some beautiful new memories.

Wish me luck!

xo J

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