Saturday, March 17, 2018


While Bordeaux may be a prolific and perhaps most famous wine region of France, the Rhône offers the edgy and raw side of French wine with overt expressions of terroir. Whether it's a cool weather northern rhone Crozes-Hermitage grown in granitic soils mixed with clay and sand, or a warmer weather Châteauneuf-du-Pape grown in galet (pebble) laden vineyards that often hide any hint of underlying soil. These pebbles, mostly quartzite, absorb heat during the day and emanate it at night, creating a warm microclimate around the vines, and allowing the grapes to fully ripen. Incidentally, quartzite is the same material often used in road construction! And then there is juicy and refreshing wine from the Luberon, a warm and very sunny region that allows white grapes to fully ripen and regain composure at night when temperatures drop significantly.

Maison Chapoutier, one of the Rhône's oldest wine producers and the first to print their labels in Braille as a matter of course. In fact, the Braille print is the very first thing I noticed on the labels when I received sample wines for the #winophiles March wine event. Why Braille? Why not Braille, because wine is one of life's sensory pleasures that can be enjoyed sign unseen!

On to the wine... thanks to Liz Barrett, I received a Luberon Ciboise (white), a Ch.-du-Pape (red), and a Crozes-Hermitage (red) to try. And...

The 2016 Luberon La Ciboise is a blend of grenache blanc, vermentino, roussanne and clairette, and is unoaked. With notes of citrus blossoms, herbs and light flowers, this youthful wine is balanced, fresh, clean, and juicy. We had it on its own before dinner (no food pairing) because it's delightful and we did not want to burden it with any competing flavours since it's almost delicate in aromas and flavours. And then...

We enjoyed the reds with a terrific cheese and charcuterie board with garlic sausage, a dry cured sausage, Pont-l'eveque, Epoisses, and tomette vendeenne cheeses, olives, and mustard amongst other things. The 2015 La Bernardine Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a young, delicious wine with a beautiful clear ruby colour and notes of freshly turned earth, white pepper, dried roses, fresh ripe red fruit. A medium bodied wine, soft tannins, generally straightforward and not too complex, with a medium finish. We had the 2015 vintage in 2018, but this wine is still developing and would do well with a few years in the bottle.

The 2015 Les Meysonniers Crozes Hermitage is 100% syrah and it's a bold, forthcoming wine with a gorgeous purple-ruby-violet colour. The nose shows earth, mushroom, black fruit, dried flowers, and undeniable spice. On the palate: earth, black fruit, leather, black pepper, and slight herbal notes. This full-bodied wine is a cool climate wine and doesn't have the juiciness of warm weather wines. But it's delicious after an hour or so of decanter time, and will do very well with at least another 4-5 years in the bottle.

Also see the food pairings and Rhône wine reviews by my fellow French #Winophiles:
  • Gwendolyn Alley at Wine Predator tells us about “Duck à l’Orange with M. Chapoutier’s Biodynamic, Organic Rhone Wines”
  • Jill Barth from L’Occasion writes about “Braille on the Label and Other Pioneering Moments of Chapoutier”
  • J.R. Boynton from Great Big Reds writes about “The Dark Side of Syrah, with Domaine Fondreche Persia 2012  (Ventoux)”
  • Jeff Burrows from Food Wine Click shares “Northern Rhone Wines and My Steak Tartare Disaster”
  • David Crowley at Cooking Chat at tells us about “London Broil Steak with Châteauneuf-du-Pape”
  • Rob Frisch at Odd Bacchus writes about “Return to the Rhône”
  • Susannah Gold at Avvinare writes about “Rhône Gems from Chapoutier in Chateauneuf, du Pape, Crozes-Hermitage, and Luberon”
  • Nicole Ruiz Hudson at Somm’s Table tells her story of “Cooking to the Wine: Les Vins de Vienne Gigondas with Gratinéed Shepherd’s Pie”
  • Camilla Mann from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares a post on “Sober Clams + a French Syrah”
  • Jane Niemeyer at Always Ravenous shares “Bison Burger Paired with Northern Rhône Syrah”
  • Martin Redmond Enofylz at shares “A Taste of The House of Chapoutier”
  • Rupal Desai Shankar at Syrah Queen writes about “Chapoutier: King of the Rhône”
  • Lauren Walsh at The Swirling Dervish writes about “France’s Rhône Valley: Mountains, Sea, Wind, and Wine”
  • Michelle Williams at Rockin Red Blog writes about “Maison M. Chapoutier: Expressing Terroir Through Biodynamics”

Monday, March 27, 2017


This fondant (melted, in French) is so easy to make, keeps well overnight so it's perfect to make ahead if you're serving it at a party, and - most importantly - it's unbelievably delicious! No need for special ingredients other than the very best dark chocolate you can get, no complicated techniques, no gadgets needed other than a whisk or a spoon, and takes no more than 45 min. from start to finish (once you have all the ingredients lined up... mise en place)!

In all the years I've made this cake, I can't believe I haven't photographed it until now. Enjoy!

makes: 1 8 in. cake, 6-8 servings

- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 6 oz. dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I usually use 55%-65% Valrhona)
- 3/4 cup butter, diced
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup AP flour
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or any other nuts, or none if you want a plain cake)
Confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional)
  1. Combine the sugar with the water in a medium saucepan and heat until it simmers and the sugar is dissolved. Don't boil the sugar and water mixture! Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Add the butter and stir until melted. Remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes while you prep the next steps. 
  2. Put a deep baking sheet (or an oven-proof pan large enough to hold the cake pan) in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven (with the baking sheet/pan in it) to 350F/180C. Grease an 8 in. cake pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper; lightly brush the parchment with butter. Boil 2-3 cups water.
  3. Add the lightly beaten eggs into the chocolate mixture and whisk until mixed well. Mix in the flour and chopped walnuts (or whatever nuts you're using, if any). Pour the batter into the greased cake pan, set the pan on the rimmed baking sheet in the oven, and pour hot water into the rimmed baking sheet until it reaches a depth of 1/2 in. or so.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the center is firm (but not too firm or else the sides will be overcooked). Let it cool for a while before turning it out onto a serving plate, and let it cool completely before dusting with confectioner's sugar.
  5. Serve as is with coffee, or with whipped cream (the cake is sweet enough that we like it with unsweetened whipped cream). Or if you have an impossibly sweet tooth: serve with vanilla ice-cream.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Adapted from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, one of my favourite American cookery books.

Cantucci are made to last a long time so the dough has no perishable fats that could go rancid (oil, butter, etc.), so if anyone is trying to pass off cantucci containing any fat other than eggs, they're not cantucci! These are also known as biscotti (biscuits) outside Italy/Europe. But really, they're a specific biscotti from Prato. Regardless, they come together in no time and are very versatile... delicious with pine nuts or any other nut, raisins, chocolate shavings, etc.

They're supposed to be very dry, and are usually enjoyed dipped into coffee or a sweet dessert wine - traditionally Vin Santo -  when they soften a bit, making them bite-able.

Chocolate Almond Cantucci (Biscotti)
Makes 2-3 dozen biscuits, depending on the size of the loaf and thickness of slices

- 2 cups sliced almonds
- 1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp almond or vanilla extract
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tsp citrus zest (lemon or any type of orange)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Spread the sliced almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until just fragrant, about 7 min.
  2. In a large bowl beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla (or almond) extract, and zest until the mixture falls in a nice ribbon (3-4 min.).
  3. Mix in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, and fold the almonds into the dough (it will be a very stiff batter rather than a dough).
  4. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, divide the dough into two portions. Shape into 3-4 in. wide logs using moistened hands so it doesn't stick. The dough will spread a bit so space logs at least 3-4 in. apart. Re-moisten hands as needed and smoothen out any lumps or unevenness in the logs.
  5. Bake until just firm, 25-30 min. Remove from the oven and cool for 10-15 min. (If baked or cooled for too long the logs might harden, making it difficult to slice them so do keep and eye on the time).
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 F/150 C.
  7. Remove each cooled log from the parchment and set on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut log into diagonal slices, about 1/2 in. thick  Lay the slices on the baking sheet - they can be quite close together, don't need to be spaced (use two baking sheets if needed, although I have never needed to do that).
  8. Bake cut cantucci for 10 min., then flip onto the other side and bake another 10-15 minutes until crisp.
  9. Enjoy with a coffee, espresso, or a dessert wine. The crumbs from cutting the biscuits are terrific on ice-cream! 

Sunday, May 15, 2016


This is an easy fool-proof recipe for a classic French pastry dough, aka pate brisée, great for any recipe that needs a flaky pastry crust - pies, tarts, quiches, even empanadas / baked samosas. Enjoy!

Pate Brisee (Shortcrust Pastry)
Makes: 1 10-1/2 in. crust (enough for one quiche, pie or tart)

- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 large pinch salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
- 3 to 4 tbsp chilled water
  1. Put the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process to mix.
  2. Cut the butter in chunks and add it to the flour. Process it, using pulses, until the butter is incorporated into the flour and the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.
  3. With the food processor running, add water 2 tbsp at a time and process briefly, using pulses, just until the pastry beings to hold together in large clumps. A way to check is to take a few tbsp of the flour-butter-water mix and press into a clump. If it holds well, it's got enough water. If it crumbles, it needs more water, 1 tbsp at a time.
  4. Remove the pastry onto a floured work surface and gather it into a ball.
  5. Refrigerate for 15 min before using in any tart, pie or quiche recipe.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Chocolate Pots de Creme

makes: 10 servings

- 10 oz. (300 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1-1/2 cups cream
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- 4-1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 espresso (or 1 tsp instant coffee powder - optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 7 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- to garnish: your choice of fresh raspberries, chopped pistachios, whipped cream, shaved chocolate, etc.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).  Set 10 4- to 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups in a roasting pan or deep baking dish. Or split between two pans like I did, if you don't have a large enough pan to fit all the containers.
  2. Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat the half-and-half, sugar, instant espresso or coffee powder, if using, and salt until quite hot, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the hot half-and-half mixture over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Let cool until tepid, then whisk in the egg yolks and the vanilla. (If the mixture looks at all grainy, whisk well or purée in a blender until smooth.)
  3. Transfer the custard mixture to a large measuring cup or pitcher and divide evenly among the ramekins.
  4. Fill the roasting pan or baking dish with warm water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the perimeters of the custards are just set and the centers are still slightly jiggly, about 35 minutes.
  5. Transfer the custards from the water bath to a wire rack and let cool.
  6. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, garnished with small mounds of whipped cream, raspberries and chopped pistachios.


Mixed Sprouts: Gujarati Cuisine
makes: 6 servings

- 6 cups sprouts
- 1 tbsp. plain or spiced ghee (or coconut oil)
- 2 dried cayenne chiles or chiles de arbol
- 1 tsp. heeng (asafoetida)
- 1 tsp. ajmo (ajwain, carom/bishop's weed seeds)
- 1 tsp. powdered turmeric
- 1 tsp. powdered cumin
- 1 tsp. powdered coriander
- 1 tsp. cayenne powder
- 1 tbsp. tamarind paste
- 2 - 3 tbsp. jaggery (or sugar, to taste)
- 3 cups water
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 4 tbsp. chopped cilantro, to garnish
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  1. Heat the ghee in a large pan, add in heeng, ajwain, whole red chilies. 
  2. When it's all aromatic, add the sprouts, turmeric, enough water to submerge the sprouts. Pressure cook until done. 
  3. OR - Add steamed sprouts, turmeric, and just enough water to submerge the sprouts. 
  4. Cook to a simmer, then add powdered cumin, coriander, cayenne powder, tamarind paste, and jaggery. Bring to a fast simmer and cook for a few minutes. 
  5. Lower the heat and add salt. Taste and adjust seasonings. 
  6. Turn off the heat and garnish with lemon juice and cilantro. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2015


I travel a fair bit for work, and when I travel, I try to keep to my usual eating habits. Especially in places that I know will have excellent fresh vegan/vegetarian food. A few months ago I was in a small town in southern CA and I looked around for lunch spots. I found a cafe near my site which served only vegan food - I *had* to go! And I was hooked!! I ate there every single day of my trip, and I ate their version of this salad. It's *that* good! And so filling.

And the mango vinaigrette - let's just say I now have this dressing in the fridge *all* the time in case I suddenly crave it! You can really put any vegetables you wish on this salad... if you don't have jicama, use radishes. Toss on some roasted vegetables: cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, a whole jalapeño, etc. Add a bit of roasted chicken or a filet of salmon to make it heartier.

Garnish with parsley instead of cilantro, or coarsely chopped almonds instead of pumpkin seeds. So many ways to make this your own...

Southwest Summer Salad with Mango Vinaigrette
makes: 2 servings

- 1/2 cup diced tomato
- 1/2 cup diced cucumber
- 1 small jicama, peeled and cut into batons
- 1 avocado, halved
- 1/2 cup sliced red onion
- 2 tbsp. lime or lemon juice
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- 3 cups mixed salad greens
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (or rice, millet, or lentils), cooled
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp. roasted pumpkin seeds
- 2 tbsp. currants or raisins
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 jalapeño, sliced
- 1 cup Mango Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  1. In a bowl, combine tomato, cucumber, and red onion. Toss with lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper.
  2. Divide salad greens into two salad bowls or plates.
  3. Top each with 1 cup of cooked quinoa/millet/rice. Arrange the tomato mixture, jicama, and an avocado half on the greens. Drizzle with 2-3 tbsp. of the vinaigrette. Garnish with the sliced jalapeño, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, currants/raisins, and cayenne pepper.
  4. Serve additional dressing on the side.
Mango Vinaigrette
makes: approximately 1 cup

- 1 cup chopped fresh (or frozen) mango
- 1/2 cups safflower oil
- 1/8 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 tbsp. rice vinegar (use lime juice if you don't have rice vinegar)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 in. piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Friday, August 7, 2015


I *love* stews and soups. This is one of my all-time favourite stews and I don't know why I haven't shared it here! It's so delicious and versatile. I typically make this vegan version unless meat-eater friends are coming over then I make it with lamb, chicken, venison, elk, etc. I've never made it with fish but I think it would be superb!

Use any vegetables you've got or want to use. Swap the sweet potatoes with a winter squash like butternut, kabocha or acorn. Swap the meat for tempeh or add in sliced boiled eggs just before serving. The variations are endless! For the brave of tongue, add in a chopped habanero while sautéing the vegetables.

makes: 6-8 servings

- kernels from 1 ear of corn (or approx. 3/4 cup corn kernels)
- 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked
- 1 med. potato, chunked
- 3 carrots, chunked
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 1 cup young shiitake mushrooms (or 1 cup any mushrooms)
- 2 cups diced capsicum
- 3 cups chopped kale (or any greens)
- 2 cups chopped or lightly crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 2 leeks, sliced (omit if not available)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tbsp. minced ginger
- 1 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 tbsp. fresh thyme (or 1 bay leaf, or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil (or any oil of choice, not olive oil)
- 4-5 cups water (or vegetable broth)
- 1-2 tbsp. salt, adjust to taste
- 2 tsp. red chile powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- garnishes (as many as you wish): sliced boiled eggs, chopped peanuts, fried onions, parsley, cilantro, sliced chiles, flaked coconut
  1. On medium-low, heat the oil in a heavy bottomed large pan. Add the onions, leeks, garlic, and ginger and sauté until translucent.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add the carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and kale and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and sauté for 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat up to high, add the water (or broth) and the thyme (or bay leaf). Once everything starts to bubble, turn the heat down to medium.
  3. Add the tomatoes, peanut butter, chile powder, and salt. Let everything cook for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked, stirring occasionally. Adjust salt and spice to taste.
  4. Turn the heat off, stir in the lemon juice, and let the stew rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over rice or bread and garnishes of choice.