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Tomato, Asparagus and Ricotta Tart

Once again, a box of frozen puff pastry solved all of my problems. I wanted to bring a nice app to an summer poolside party but although it had to be pretty and delicious, it also had to be kind of quick and easy. Since, as always, I had a box of my favourite pre rolled puff pastry from PC in the freezer and a container of ricotta, it was obvious that I would make a little tart. A quick trip up to the Magical Asian produce store provided some nice yellow cocktail tomatoes, red cherry tomatoes and some Ontario asparagus. You can mix it up and use whatever bit of vegetable you have - it would be just as delicious with freshly shucked peas or leftover roasted vegetables, for instance.

You can mix the ricotta hours ahead of time and if you can't find z'atar you can just sprinkle a bit of fresh thyme over the top but do try to find the z'atar because z'atar makes everything better.

Tomato, Asparagus and Ricotta Tart

makes 24 app servings or 12 large pieces 

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed according to package directions.

2 cups ricotta

1/4 cup grated parmesan + more for grating on the tarts

1 egg

1/4 cup fresh herbs, chopped

1/2 tsp kosher salt

few grinds black pepper

250g yellow tomatoes

small handful of red cherry tomatoes

12 spears of asparagus

a couple of tbls z'atar

Mix the ricotta, egg, 1/4 cup parmesan, 1 beaten egg, fresh herbs, salt and pepper in a big bowl and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour for the flavours to intensify.

Thinly slice your tomatoes and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F

If you are not using pre rolled puff pastry, roll each sheet out until it's approx  10"x10" but if you can, buy pre rolled pastry like the PC puff pastry.

Cut each sheet of thawed puff pastry into six rectangles with a pizza cutter and set them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use your pastry cutter to score a border around the rectangles close to the edge (don't cut all the way through). You can also use a sharp knife. Using a fork prick the pastry all over inside the scored edge. Pop these into the oven for about 5 minutes just to precook a tiny bit before adding the cheese. Take them out when they are just starting to puff up and look like they are not completely raw (between 5 to 8 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom after the first five minutes if the top pan still looks too raw) and set them aside to cool down a bit.

I like to make them pretty and uniform but you don't have to be that picky

Divide the ricotta mixture amongst the pastry and spread it out thickly, trying to keep it inside the scored border. Cut the asparagus so that the spears fit on the pastry and set one on each tart, artfully arranging tomato slices on the tart as well. If you don't care about them looking quite so perfect and uniform, feel free to just wing it. Grate a bit more parmesan over them and then sprinkle each with a bit of z'atar.

ready to pop back in the oven

Bake in the oven for another 25 to 30 minutes minutes, rotating the baking pans halfway through. You want to bake until you get a nice, golden crust to make sure the pastry is well cooked and isn't soggy in the middle.

You can serve hot within a few minutes of taking them out of the oven or cool them to room temp. You will either have 12 large rectangles or you can cut each in half to give you 24 squares.

The Week in Yum, Southbrook Winery and Sea Witch and Detroit is on Deck!

The only thing better than visiting a really nice winery is eating a fabulous lunch on a patio overlooking that really nice winery. Sadly, there are far too many really great looking wineries out there that serve underwhelming food. I want to be as wowed by my meal as I am by the wine that accompanies it and I will admit that I was not sure that my lunch at Southbrook Vineyards was going to be able to knock my socks off but I was certainly happy to take a drive out to Niagara on the Lake and give it a try. 
The winery and the vineyard are lovely and I have been there many times, perhaps to buy a bottle or ten of their delicious Framboise. I had not eaten anything here though and this visit was really about trying out their Farmer's Table menu. Starting in early June and ending on Thanksgiving weekend, the Farmer's Table @Southbrook is open from Thursday to Monday, from 11:30am to 5:00pm. Executive chef, Shawn Murphy has returned to Niagara after graduating from The Niagara College Culinary program and working in the kitchens of a couple of Niagara wineries before setting off for Newfoundland where his time at the Fogo Island Inn cemented a passion for foraging local ingredients. Back in Niagara, he is putting that passion to work in the kitchen of Southbrook, creating a kitchen garden in an unused planting row left over from the removal of damaged grape vines after our hard winter. He is dedicated to either growing everything himself or sourcing it from local farmers and purveyors that he has developed relationships with. In fact, all of the produce that we ate for lunch was picked within 5 hours of our meal. 

Southbrook is a really interesting vineyard as is it's owner, Bill Redelmeier who comes from a long line of Ontario farmers. He and his wife, Marylin, bought the vineyard in 2005 and by 2008 they had become the very first Canadian wine estate to earn both an organic and a biodynamic certification for both the winery and the vineyard. Being biodynamic means that the entire place operates in a way that is ecologically, socially and economically sustainable. For instance, because it was becoming increasingly difficult to source the volume of organic manure they needed for their expanding vineyard, they decided to raise sheep on the land. The sheep graze on the wild flowers that grow between the rows of grape vines, nibbling away the suckers at the bottoms of the plants and their organic sheep poop provides the vineyard with the much needed manure. Now there is a natural way to groom, maintain and fertalize the grapes AND delicious, organic lamb meat for Chef Murphy to turn into delicious meals in the restaurant.

Instead of spraying chemicals, they make a "tea" from willow that is harvested on site and spray that on the vines. This tea, high is Salicylic acid makes them hardier and healthier and keeping the yields lower. The fact that they are not spraying insecticide means that whatever insects is eating the Japanese Beetles (a huge problem in a vineyard) is alive and well at Southbrook , taking care of the problem naturally. When I asked which bugs were killing the beetles, Bill said that it doesn't matter because the job is being done by something that is not being killed by the chemicals that kill off everything BUT the beetles. It's a win all the way around. They don't irrigate or worry too much about weeds, which also help keep the yields low, ensuring fewer, higher quality grapes at the end of the season.

He compared the operation to raising children: You pamper your first child, rush him to the doctor at the first sniffle, wipe away every speck of dirt, sterilize everything he touches but with the second child the ten second rule prevails, a cold is just a cold and, consequently, the second child usually develops a stronger immune system and is actually healthier than the first.

"I'm raising 158 acres of second children"

Okay, so on to the meal.
For $30 you can choose the three course prix fixe lunch, which I would highly recommend. We got to try two pizzas, the strawberry salad as well as the asparagus salad, a plate of amazing green tomatoes in olive oil with some in house flat bread and a dessert of cheesecake, local strawberries and some goat yogurt.

For the pizzas, Chef Murphy makes a crust from red fife flour and another Southbrook wine making byproduct, Bioflavia grape skin powder (nothing goes to waste here). This crust is robust, paper thin but with a great chewiness and it's topped with locally grown products. In this case both pizzas featured Southbrook lamb, and my favourite was topped with more asparagus and fresh peas, edible flowers and fresh mozzarella .

This strawberry salad is something I would have never ordered myself, assuming it would be too sweet and not to my liking but I am not too proud to admit that I was very, very wrong. The heavy dousing of black pepper and coarse salt brought out an intensity in an already intense Ontario berry that I was not expecting. The petite verdot vinaigrette and a smattering of peppery greens finished off the dish which has now become something I am going to try to replicate at home.

 The second salad, the innocuously named "asparagus salad" was also incredibly simple and complex all at the same time. Charred, tender asparagus and crispy, local grean peas that were picked that morning are elevated by a raisin dressing. Raisins in my savoury food are another no no for me but not today. This salad was something that I could eat every day although because of the chef's kitchen philosophy, it will only be offered while these ingredients last so I guess I had better hurry back before the are no longer in season.

this plate of oil and vinegar napped green tomatoes was delicious

We were served a Transitions Cabernet Franc Rose with our salads and the 2013 Triomphe Cabernet Franc (we brought a bottle home with us as well) with our pizza, both excellent wines and perfect for lunch on the patio on a balmy summer day.
Me and Chef Shawn Murphy, two Irish freshly shucked peas in a pod

special thanks to Laurie and The Siren Group for inviting me to lunch at Southbrook, to Bill Redelmeier for being an entertaining and informative host and to Chef Murphy for filling our bellies full of lovingly prepared, delicious food

581 Niagara Stone Road, RR4
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
L0S 1J0
Current Seasonal Hours are Monday to Sunday 10am to 6pm

Because I brought Shack along to take photographs for me (most of the photos are taken by him) and it was such a beautiful day, instead of heading straight back to the city, we drove along the lake up to Fort Eerie, right by the Peace Bridge and then looped back towards home. If you can, and you are in no hurry, I highly recommend this little side trip before returning to Toronto. The road hugs the water, twists and winds through beautiful, lush greenery, you pass through Niagara Falls and then continue on up to Fort Eerie. Stop on the way back for freshly picked, local fruit at one of the many roadside stands and you have got yourself a perfect summer day.

The other notable meal of the week was my media dinner at Sea Witch - click here to read all about it

So, tomorrow we leave for a road trip to Detroit where we are going to eat our faces off, see the Shepard Fairy exhibit at the Library Street Collective and experience this Detroit renaissance for ourselves. If you don't already follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook do something about that because I will be sharing the whole trip, in real time, as we go.

Pin of the week: This cake literally screams SUMMER!

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Dispatch: Scenes from Croatia Road trip along the coast??
Posted by The Yum Yum Factor on Sunday, June 21, 2015

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Sea Witch Fish and Chips - The Real Deal on St Clair West

Sea Witch Fish and Chips

funky lamps, comfortable, laid back interior with some interesting, nautical themed bits and bobs

I get to go to a lot of media dinners and eat a lot of free food and I have to tell you, I eat more mediocre food than good food at these things. I usually only share the places that I am excited about because I prefer to share restaurants with people as opposed to "reviewing" them.

With that in mind, I am thrilled to share Sea Witch with you.

The small, neighbourhood restaurant is located on the hot little strip of St Clair West (just west of Bathurst) and it's been garnering rave reviews since the day it opened for it's small, simple and well executed menu. There are no bells and whistles, no 3 page menu attempting to make everyone happy, no fish tacos and , at this time anyway, no liquor license so not everyone is going to be thrilled with Sea Witch but people who want to eat really delicious, perfectly executed fish and chips are going to be over the moon. The line ups since the day they opened just ten months ago are a testament to how badly people really want a great plate of fried fish.

the beef tallow is what takes this fish and chips up over the edge and puts them at the front of the F&C line

You can get Pacific halibut, Atlantic haddock, Arctic Char, Pacific Cod and a surprising but delicious local fish, pickerel. On the weekends, they try to offer a featured fish (Blue Cod is on the menu this weekend, for example) and the prices are good - $11 to $15 depending on the type of fish you order. Hand cut, crispy fries are served in a huge heap alongside a homemade tartar sauce. A large bowl of slaw will set you back $4 and, to be honest, it was the only thing I tasted that didn't do much for me but other people loved it. I like a really creamy slaw and this one is a bit on the dry side, but it's fresh and home made and I will take that over a creamy, pre fab slaw any day.

Chef/owner Kevin Kowalczyk spent more than a decade at Penrose Fish and Chips, so he knows his way around a deep fryer. Like at Penrose, he fries his fish and chips in beef tallow, the old school way and the result is a deeply golden, crisp batter than shatters with your first stab at it. This is the real deal and if you wince at the thought of fish fried in beef drippings, get over it. This is how a proper fish and chip is done and it's a glorious thing.

I have not had a better fish cake

Kowalczyk's wife, Jacki Strahl makes the rest of the food and I would hard pressed to choose between an order of halibut and chips and her wonderful halibut cakes. They are crispy on the outside and soft, tender and flaky on the inside. You can order two giant fish cakes with chips for $13 or a side order of just the cakes for $10. They come with pickled onion and I would suggest getting a side order of her tangy tartar sauce as well.

the house chowder is text book, delicious fish chowder

A big bowl of Witches Brew was one of my favourite parts of the meal. The house chowder is full of big chunks of fish and it's chowder the way I like it. Not too thin, not too thick - I felt like the little bear finding a chowder that was juuuuuuust right.

$5 will get you this tower of crispy, thickly battered onion rings
The menu also offers poutine and halibut poutine so, basically, other than the soup and the cole slaw, this is where you come to get your deep fry on so don't come in and ask for a garden salad.

I live in the Beaches so this place isn't convenient to me at all and I can certainly get a decent fish and chip in the east end but I am telling you, I will be back for more of those halibut cakes and the chowder alone. Oh, and I am dying to try the Pickerel and Chips.

Yes, my meal was free since I was invited there for a media dinner but my opinions are my own and the fact that I gave them a stand alone post instead of including them in The Week In Yum should tell you how I feel about this place

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The Week in Yum June 7-19 Biff's Bistro and Bar Raval, Yonanas and Cooking Up A Storm at Loblaws

tapas lining the bar at Bar Raval

Loblaws at 5am is not a sight I'd like to see again soon

The week started off with three days in the Loblaw's kitchen. Last Thursday I taught a What's For Dinner class in the afternoon and started prepping for Friday morning's breakfast for 20 of the overnight staff and then came in at 5am to make that happen with the kitchen director, Kira. She stayed all day and night getting everything ready for our Saturday lunch for the 80 daytime employees and I returned on Saturday morning to help get the lunch together and feed almost 100 hungry people.


Oh yeah! I had received a Yonanas machine last week when I was on death's door and so it sat, unopened for a week until I felt up to taking it for a test drive. If you live under a rock and haven't heard of this machine, it's a really easy to use machine that turns frozen fruit into, basically, ice cream but without the cream. You shove a couple of frozen bananas down the shute and it comes out the other side all creamy and so much like ice cream, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. That is just the beginning because you can add any sort of frozen fruit that you like, you can freeze chocolate chips, bananas soaked in booze and/or spices, different flavouring liquids etc and add those as well. There are recipes for frozen dessert pies, bananaless sorbets, terrines and all kinds of tasty treats in the booklet and on the website.

I have only had time to try it once and I made strawberry/mango banana, gave it to both boys and asked what they thought of it. Both of them ate their bowls of what they thought was ice cream and deemed it delicious. I got three or four big bowls out of two frozen bananas and about 3/4 cup of frozen mixed fruit and it really was delicious and, best of all, there was NO sugar or cream added. Just fruit. Mind blown. Stay tuned for some crazy, new recipes using this bad boy.

I used to try to make this sort of dessert with a blender or a food processor but it gets over whipped and gummy with those machines.

I finally perfected the recipe for the bifana, our favourite eating memory from our trip to Portugual
Recipe for my bifana

I had a great day at work this week, grooming Judd Apatow and doing some makeup for Vanessa Bayer while they did a press day for the upcoming Amy Shumer movie, Trainwreck. It's always a fun thing to meet people you admire (Vanessa Bayer's "We're not porn stars anymore" infomercials with Cecily Strong on SNL is reason enough, alone, to love her) my fellow makeup artists and I were treated to dinner at Biff's Bistro before hightailing it over to Massey Hall to get them ready for their comedy show, which we watched before leaving for home.

I have never been to Biff's and I am not sure what I was expecting but what we got was delicious bistro inspired food and great service. Also, who knew there was such a great patio to enjoy a glass of rose and a charcuterie board (full of meaty delicacies made in house) right across from The Hummingbird Centre/Sony Centre or if you are old as dirt, like me, The O'Keefe Centre.

barely seared albacore tuna
pan roasted lincod
It was not at all stuffy, as I had assumed and all three of us loved our entrees. Even though my girl, Alice, requested that the kitchen murder her steak frites by cooking the beautiful piece of beef to medium, it managed to remain full of flavour and texture. My perfectly cooked cod came with a barigoule (a fancy pants term for some artichokes, onions and carrot braised in a white wine sauce) and crunchy lardons and although the tuna could have been a touch warmer, it was also very good. I am adding the patio at Biff's to my list of places to drag Shack this summer.
Big thanks to the people at Universal Toronto for a great day and a great dinner.

Lots of work led to Friday and my day was bookended with fabulousness.
It started with a lunch at Bar Raval, at last, and ended with watching my little boy, all grown up, testing and receiving his brown belt. Proud mom with a belly full of tapas is the best way to end any week.

Bar Raval

I have been trying to get to Bar Raval, the sister restaurant of popular Bar Isabel, since it opened but life is always getting in the way so when fellow blogger, chef, cooking instructor and caterer Paula Costa, wanted to book a lunch date I was thrilled to say yes. Sadly, our third lunch mate could not make it so it was up to the two of us to eat for three, which we managed with flying colours.
my creamy cortado, Paula and the view of our table at the height of lunch
I got there a bit early and snagged a prime table for two on the front patio, ordered a cortado and a wee cube of tortilla espagnole ($2.90) to nibble on while I waited. When I lived in Madrid, I ate nothing but tortilla for the first month because it was delicious and comforting and was cheap and even free when I was ordering a drink - it tasted like my mom's scalloped potatoes so what harm could it do? Well, I would say about 10 lbs of harm, actually. Little did I know that tortilla is made by poaching potato slices and egg in about a gallon of olive oil until the potatoes soak up all the oil and turns into a solid cake that can be cubed like that cube down there. Oops. I am happy to report that the tortilla at Bar Raval did not let me down. It was rich, creamy yet firm at the same time and it made me very, very happy to be there.

 After that, the two of us got down to business. The tuna conserva and charred romaine ($11) was a revelation. I would never had thought that mint would work but now that I have tasted it, I am going to add mint to everything. A fine dice of rare tuna served on a bed of charred romaine, red peppers, crispy kale and just enough mint - might have been both of our favourite dishes.

We had Galacian Octopus ($8) as well as the Octopus in Raval Sauce and I don't think I could choose between them. The galacian octopus is sliced thinly, marinated in olive oil and served on a chunk of bread while the octopus in revel sauce consists of chunks of the fish preserved in house in a smoky red pepper sauce. Get them both.
octopus in raval sauce, Morcilla with quail eggs and the tuna conserva

 I did not get a photo of the croquetas ($4.25) because we inhaled them but they were also a must have. Crispy, deep fried crust encasing an impossibly creamy interior, studded with ham...oh my. On my next visit I am getting the tomato bread, leek with romanesco and cobia fish crudo because, frankly, on this visit I just ran out of stomach.

The prices are reasonable, the service was great, everything was fresh and delicious and nobody gave me a hard time when I had to sit alone in a premium spot, at lunch, for 45 minutes while I waited for Paula, who was held up in traffic. Be careful while ordering though because the bill can add up quickly if you are ordering the premium tapas, but with most thing hovering in the $5-$10 range, you will be able to eat well without breaking the bank. Throw in a glass of sparkling rose (Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Rose at $7 a glass) and you will think you are sitting outside, passing the afternoon away in Granada.

This is going to become a regular daytime stop for me. I would love to go in the evening but, at this point, I am told that by nightfall it is overrun with hipsters who pack into the tiny bar to stand around and nosh and sip and look fabulous while doing so.

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Hashem was THE best meal we had in Jordan. I would give anything for a plate of fuol
Posted by The Yum Yum Factor on Friday, June 19, 2015

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It's Time To Share The Bifana With You

Have I told you how much I enjoyed being in Portugal lately?

Well, we all fell madly in love with Portugal. In fact, I loved it much more than I expected to and that surprised me. I have spent a lot of time in Spain and I think I assumed that Portugal would just kind of be like Spain-light but after spending a couple of weeks there, I know that this couldn't be further from the truth. Not only do they speak a completely different language, their music is different, their culture is very unique and their food is not Spanish at all.

The Week in Yum June 6-11 My Garden Goes Wild, Fairmount Marker and Some Upcoming Stuff

The only thing thriving this week was my garden. The rain has transformed it into a thing of beauty

There was very little yum in my week, my friends. The Kid and I woke up last Friday, sick as dogs, infected with the plague that our own patient zero, Shack, had brought into our home earlier in the week. Before we both totally fell apart, we drove to McDonalds for french fries because the ONLY time that I eat them is when I am too sick to eat anything else. Their crispy, salty goodness is what I crave when I am sick. After polishing off our fries, The Kid and I took to our beds, where we remained for the rest of the weekend. Saturday meant another order of fries and I think that was the only time I even sat up. The kid bounced back by Monday but these things don't work that way with me and so I spent the rest of the week feeling pretty crappy. Not bad enough to stay in bed, but bad enough that I couldn't eat anything other than watermelon and I didn't venture far from the house.

Sweet and Spicy Mushroom Pork with Green Beans

I don't totally go out of my way to make food healthier, for the most part. We eat butter, lots of olive oil, all the meats and full fat milk and cream always has a place in my kitchen. We try to make sure that the largest slice of pie, in our diet pie chart, comes from whole foods, leaving room for the odd Dorito, Fresca and ramen. As long as we are eating mostly real food, I am pretty happy about what we are stuffing into our bellies.

Okay, that said, it doesn't mean that I still don't look for ways to cut down on saturated fats or excessive white carbs like delicious pasta and white basmati rice when I feel like we have been over indulging. One striploin serves all of us, we can get three meals out of one roast chicken and apart from a bit of an ice cream problem, dessert is not something we see in this house very often.  In the grand scheme of things, as long as the flavour is not compromised, I am good with lightening up some of our favourite dishes and this is such a dish.

For years, I have made fried ground pork with grean beans and it's  delicious, kind of greasy and sweet with a hint of spice from a bit of thai chili. While some cuts of pork, like tenderloin, are really lean, ground pork, although delicious, is a saturated fatty fatty bobatty - there is no way around it. As The Kid gets older and his appetite gets bigger, I cringe when I see him heap up his plate with a second helping that I silently calculate to be half a pound of ground pork. Ouch.

After some tinkering, I have replaced almost half of the pork with ground mushrooms, using my beloved blend and extend method which I now apply to all ground meat dishes, without losing anything as far as flavour and texture. What I am losing is volume of ground pork and the fat that comes with it. When The Kid ended up eating half of the pan as his dinner, I didn't have to avert my eyes and pretend it wasn't really THAT much pork because it actually wasn't really that much pork.The addition of gochujang to replace some of the hoisin adds spice while adding another layer of flavour.

Half the fat, half the pork with all the flavour? That's a winning recipe, if you ask me.

Sweet and Spicy Mushroom Pork with Green Beans

clearly, you don't have to serve this on udon noodles, but I love the chewiness and they really do take up the sauce nicely. It's also great on rice, rice noodles or chow mein noodles.

serves 4-6


350g ground pork
250g button mushrooms
2 tbls veg oil
1 tbls soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 tbls hoisin sauce
3 tbls gochujang
1/4 cup shaoxing wine
1 cup chicken stock
240 g green beans
1 tbls cornstarch
1 1/2 tbls water

udon noodles
approx 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts. chopped fine
handful of cilantro
*sliced red thai chili if you need some extra heat


wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth, quarter them and pulse in a food processor until ground.

Heat a deep saute pan over med high heat and about 1 tbls vegetable oil and saute the mushrooms until they have released most of their water and are reduced in volume - should take about 2 minutes. Add in the ground pork and continue to cook, breaking up the pork with a wooden spoon and stirring constantly, until there is no pink left to the meat. Add in the soy sauce, saute 1 more minute and remove the pork to a bowl.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan and saute the onion, garlic and ginger for a few minutes until the onion is softened. Throw in the hoisin and gochujang and cook for a minute, stirring constantly and scraping up the bottom so that it doesn't burn.

Put the pork back in the pan with the chicken stock, wine and green beans and simmer for about 5 minutes. While the pork is simmering, bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the udon noodles according to package directions. (fresh udon noodles only take a couple of minutes) Drain the udon and set aside.

Make a slurry out of the cornstarch and water, add to the pork, stir well and let it cook for a minute to thicken up.

Put udon in a shallow bowl, pour the pork mixture over the top and scatter with a generous handful of finely chopped peanuts and some cilantro.

Thai Corn Chowder

So, it's supposedly summer. The fact that I spend my mornings wondering which coat I need to grab when I want to take my coffee on my front porch in the mornings tell me otherwise, but, whatever. In the spirit of pretending that it we are enjoying a balmy June, I give you a lighter, brighter version of one of our favourite soups, corn chowder. 

I first published this recipe on NoReEats, the blog where three of us documented our year of never repeating a recipe, which, in retrospect, was insane, but this is a soup that I still often make during the summer when we are craving some corn chowder but don't want anything with heavy cream and bacon. 

Thai Corn Chowder

soup stock:
6 cups of chicken stock
the cobs from 6 cobs of corn
2 stalks lemongrass, crushed
2 lime leaves
handful of cilantro stalks

Cut the corn from the cobs, put the corn in a bowl and set aside. The cobs will go into the stock pot.
Bring the stock and the rest of the ingredients, along with the corn cobs, to a boil and reduce heat to bring it to a heavy simmer. Reduce the stock until you have about 4 cups and then let it sit, with the lid on, while you prep the soup ingredients. Right before you use it, strain it.

1 tbls canola oil
1 shallot minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup eggplant in a small dice
1 tsp green curry paste
4 cups of chicken stock
4 lime leaves
1/2 sweet potato, small dice
1 red potato, small dice
1/2 cup freshly shelled peas
I can of coconut milk
2 tbls fish sauce
corn kernels from the six cobs of corn
juice from 1 or 2 limes, to taste
handful of cilantro, chopped roughly (or to taste)

Heat the oil over med heat. Sauté the shallot and the garlic till fragrant and then add the eggplant. Sauté for about 4 or 5 minutes, until it softens and just starts to brown. Add the curry paste and stir that around for a minute until really fragrant. Add the strained stock and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes, potatoes and cook for five minutes. Add the coconut milk, the corn, the peas and squeeze in the juice of a lime. Bring back to a light boil and let simmer for another five minutes.

The Week in Yum May 29-June 4 SouthWestern Ontario, iYellow Wine Club and a Whack of Spanish Cheese

some of the amazing South Western Onario people I met at 2015 City Fare

This was a really great week in Yum, I must say. I attended two really fantastic food/wine events that were both well organized, informative and lots of fun.

2015 City Fare 

well, we look innocent enough..... just two moms, out having a glass of wine, nothing to see here people
The best worst (and by worst I mean best) influencer I know, Libby Roach, was kind enough to invite Shack and I to tag along with her and Mr Roach last Saturday to an iYellow wine club event that celebrated the food and drink of Ontario's Southwest. iYellow wine club is a social group of wine lovers and they put on events, organize tours and host tastings where you will be introduced to a plethora of wines from all over the world while having a hoot. I have written about them the last time Libby took me to their Shiraz shindig - hmmmm, Libby, wine, drinking..... I am sensing a pattern here.

We all ventured out in the pissing rain to meet up at Wychwood Barns for what turned out to be one of THE best food/drink events that I have attended all year. It was well organized, the food and drink was laid out in a way that allowed for a great flow if you walked along the route with your wine glass holding snack tray, spreading out the booze and making sure that there were plenty of edibles in between. Even with this thoughtful pacing, the four of us managed to get afternoon tipsy by the time we reached the end of the road, bellies full with lots of business cards, brochures and plans for summer road trips to Southwestern Ontario.

I am originally from London so, although the names and locations of the towns were all familiar, I had no idea that there was so much going on down there. When I left thirty years ago, there was nothing but tobacco, corn, tomatoes and Pelee Island, frankly, and I have never really considered going back that way for anything other than a family visit.

Walkerville Brewery all the way from Windsor Ontario might have provide me with a libation or three

butter tarts from Leaping Dear Farms were a big hit with all four of us

spring fed trout crudo with horseradish cream, pine nuts and trout skin chicharron from Woodtock's  Sixty Thirty Nine

Coopers Hawk Winery from Harrow on Lake Eerie's North Shore
Yes, I was comped our tickets but if I am not as lucky next year, I will happily purchase tickets to this event and you should too.

I do not really understand how we ended up on Vaughn Road in the rain but we certainly look thrilled with that cow!

Cheese From Spain: A Taste Experience

On Monday I joined a big group of people in the food industry at St Lawrence Market for an afternoon of Spanish cheeses, wines and sherry. Nine brands were represented and we were offered 2 6 cheeses in all. Much like olive oil production, cheese production is also protected within the EU. A cheese  with a geographical indication is consider POD (coming from a protected designation of origin) or PGI (Protected geographical indication) and Spain currently has 25 PDO and 2 PGI cheeses. This ensures that only cheese that truly originates from the named region that also meets all quality specifications is allowed to carry that designation. You can also look for DOP, DO and IGP which are the Spanish translations.

From the salty cow's milk cheeses from the island of Minorca to the fatty goat's cheese from the Mediterranean coast, Spain has over 100 varieties of goat, cow, sheep and mixed milk cheeses so if you think Spanish cheese is nothing but Manchego, think again.

Standouts were Torta De Dehesa from Hacienda Zorita in Salamanca. An almost wet, creamy cheese that is made with a vegetarian thistle rennet, this unique cheese is rich, creamy and earthy and unlike anything I have tasted before.

how sexy is this cheese??

The cheese that I am going to run away with, marry and make my very own was called Picos de Europa Valdeon, IGP from the Northwest of Spain. It is a dense, rich, salty blue cheese that comes wrapped in either chestnut or maple leaves. I may, or may not, have eaten much more of this one than I should have because I had a bit of a tummy situation that night and the next day but honey badger don't care. This is the cheese of my heart.

A class of Codornui Cava was perfect with all of the nutty manchegos that I tried and a glass of sweet sherry was a lovely foil for my beloved , stinky socked Valdeon.

There were also beautiful tapas courtesy of Pangea that featured many of the cheeses that we were tasting.

Sadly, back in my former life I actually lived in Madrid but I did not partake in their spectacular cheeses because I was young and stupid and always on a diet, so now I am making up for that silliness. All of these cheeses are available in Canada so make an effort to seek them out and expand your dairy horizons.

The brands to look for are:
Don Juan, El Pastor, Hacienda Zorita, La Cueva del Abuelo, Monte Enebro, Quorum Internacional, Roblevega, Rocinante and Vega Mancha

Special thanks to Mary Luz Mejia, The Spanish Trade Commission and cheese expert Julia Rogers for inviting me 

My week concluded with a day at the CTV Upfronts and this year, I was a lucky duck who got to spend a day with this talented, funny and very beautiful lady:

Hayley Atwell of Agent Carter 

Pin of the week: How did I miss this in Portugal? Reason enough to go back ASAP

Instagram of the week: Julie's Kitchen feed will make you gain 10 lbs

Facebook share of the week:

Gorgeous photos #photography #GirlsRuleGirls Rule in an Indian Village via @nytimesphoto
Posted by The Yum Yum Factor on Wednesday, June 3, 2015

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