Archive for January, 2013

Gatherings: A Birthday Croquembouche Cake

Croquembouche cake 5-small

You may have figured out by now that it’s birthday season around here – as in most families, our birthdays come in clusters, most of them in January and October, with two double birthdays included in this month. This weekend was the end of the January run, as B turned 10. He couldn’t decide between cream puffs and cake (takes after his aunt, he does) and so I made sunken chocolate cakes, their concavity perfect for a pile of cream puffs.

Let me pause here before getting into the sticky details of spinning sugar and dribbling chocolate to use this as a segue way to introduce a fun new series my friend Jan and I have been scheming. Although there is no shortage of recipes on this world-wide interweb, what we love most about food is its ability to bring people together; not just families at mealtimes, but extended families – relatives and friends and strangers connecting around food, whether it’s a celebration or an impromptu gathering. Food is social, it’s comforting, it nourishes and connects us in ways we can all relate to. It’s a common ground. The concept of “entertaining”, though, makes gathering friends around your dinner table seem daunting. People say to me all the time, “you must entertain a lot,” which conjures images of beef Wellington and crème brûlée and me in the kitchen sipping wine in a stylish apron with a 29 inch waist. Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with beef Wellington and crème brûlée, but the notion of entertaining in that Martha-meets-the-Stepford-Wives style puts so much pressure on the host that most often we’re dissuaded from doing anything.

So. This year Jan and I are bringing back the casual gathering – and taking the pressure off of those fancy events we so often approach from a standpoint of damage control – and having as many dinner parties and other gatherings as possible. On the last Wednesday of each month we’ll post about one or more of them here, which will allow us to get a running start on a new blog – called Gatherings – where we’ll share recipes, ideas, techniques and tools that we hope will inspire (and help!) anyone putting together a party, or just looking for new ways to bring friends together around the table. (Jan used to be a professional party planner, you know! she knows all about quantities and catering secrets and tons of helpful stuff!) Gatherings will (hopefully!) launch April 1, and we’re even talking about turning it into a book… although those details haven’t been figured out yet. For now, we’ll start here.

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January 30 2013 | cake | 30 Comments »

Real Tuna Melts with Fennel

Tuna Melt 1

I just got back from a quick (36 hour) jaunt to Vancouver that included the opening of Whitecap‘s hip new office in Gastown (around the corner from Meat & Bread! And Revolver!), breakfast with one of my favourite people at the new Forage in the Listel, lunch on the steps of the VAG with one of my favourite food bloggers, and dinner at YEW in the Four Seasons (it was also Dine Out Vancouver) with Ned (whom some of you may know I did a few seasons of a not-on-Food-Network cooking show years ago). Which all sounds very glamorous now that I type it out here, and I suppose it kind of was, except that I’m really not all that glamorous, even when thrust into a swanky hotel. (I hope that didn’t come across as a humblebrag, but people have been asking what I was up to in Vancouver, and that was what I was up to… that and buying far too much coffee and trying not to get rained on.)


Anyway, I hadn’t been to YEW before – it was a beautiful room, and it was nice to see Ned in his element. He brought us (Ethan and I) some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten – a bento box of Dungeness and lobster tacos with guacamole, buttery albacore tuna, steelhead trout with grapefruit and ponzu dip, then roasted sablefish. I came home with two cans of albacore in my carry-on bag, canned by Ned and his crew at YEW. You’ll notice two ingredients on the label: tuna and love.

Tuna Melt 2

I made these tuna melts using ahi tuna steaks for one of last year’s issues of Swerve, and they were a total hit – so good I’m not sure any of us came up for air as we devoured them. When debating how best to use these special tins of tuna and love, real melts came to mind.

Really, all it is is tuna salad made with the very best ingredients: an ahi tuna steak, seared in a hot pan with salt and pepper, or a can of the very best you can get your hands on, broken apart with a fork and tossed with 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh fennel (if you have some, or can easily acquire it), 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, 1/4 cup proper mayo, a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Pile on slices of crusty bread or open focaccia, scatter with grated aged white cheddar or Gouda and broil for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is melted, bubbly and golden.

Done right, the tuna melt should reclaim its rightful place at the lunch – or dinner – table.

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January 27 2013 | sandwiches and seafood | 7 Comments »

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