Living in Montreal is pretty awesome for a multitude of reasons. Food wise, we have more restaurants than we can possibly ever eat at, and you can easily find authentic tasting cuisine from nearly every country in the world. We have an incredible selection of grocers, small and large, and it's pretty easy to find nearly any special ingredient that you're looking for. 

The one thing that we don't have? Trader Joe's. I love everything about Trader Joe's, and I'll take any opportunity I can get to cross the border just to have a taste of their delicious garlic na'an dipped in cowboy caviar. The thing is, I don't often have this opportunity, so when I recently ran out, I knew I would have to either a) live without it, or b) make my own. Obviously, I went with option B. And let me tell you, as much as I love my TJ's, now that I've made this, I may not need to make as many trips down south as I used to.



Tomatillo Cowboy Caviar (Salsa Verde)
an original recipe by allison sklar 

1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, diced
2 medium onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup corn kernels (canned, or cooked)
1 cup black beans (cooked)
2 tsp cumin seed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup cilantro
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 diced jalapeno pepper (more if you like it spicy)
1 tsp salt

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large mixng bowl, combine tomatillos, onions, garlic, corn, black beans, cumin seed & oil.
Spread mixture onto baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Transfer about half of the mixture into a food processor or blender.
Add water, vinegar, cilantro, jalapeno & salt to blender.
Pulse until roughly chopped.
Transfer mixture, along with reserved half, to a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmering for about 45 minutes, until most of the liquid has reduced and sauce thickens.
Transfer to jar with airtight lid.
Allow to cool & refrigerate.
Best served cold.




Crêpes are one of those foods that I used to think of as 'special occasion food.' I did not grow up eating them, and knew them only from breakfast restaurants, and a few scattered crêperies around the city. They always seemed a little fancy to me, so I shied away from as I thought that they were too complicated or labour-intensive. Boy, was I wrong! This particularly delicious recipe has a batter that is mixed in the blender - just toss your ingredients in and blitz! Couldn't be simpler. Using a 6 inch non-stick pan ensures that each crêpe is the same size and shape - which is great for fancy stacks, crêpe cakes, or perfectionists! These crêpes are so versatile that we found ourselves trying different topping combinations a few nights in a row, having a great excuse to eat breakfast for dinner multiple times. Savoury or sweet, these thin French style pancakes are my new go-to brunch food. The best part? They can be made in advance and frozen - for up to a year! I know this from experience, as we saved some from our wedding, and they were equally as delicious on our 1st anniversary.

French Style Crêpes
thin pancakes - ideal for crêpe cakes 

Note: Make dairy-free crêpes by replacing milk with coconut milk, and butter with coconut oil

ingredients

2 1/4 cups milk, warmed to 110F
2 cups ap flour
6 eggs
6 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla*

approx. 1/4 cup oil, for cooking

method

NOTES: You can make these in advance and re-warm in the oven at your convenience.
If making a large batch, pre-heat oven to 175F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Place all ingredients, except oil, into blender and pulse until completely smooth.
Heat oil in round flat-surfaced skillet or frying pan, ideally the same size as you would like your crêpes to be. I like to use a 6'' pan.
Pour about 3 tbsp. of batter into pan (or, just enough so that the pan is coated.)
Allow to cook for 2 minutes before flipping over.
Remove from pan, and place on parchment lined sheet in a 175F oven until ready to serve.


*Note: Omit the vanilla and reduce sugar to 1/8 cup if you would like to use these in savoury applications.

The end of August is a bittersweet time. While the long, lazy days of summer are quickly getting shorter, the crisp inviting smell of autumn will soon be in the air. It is arguably the best season for fresh local produce, as the farmers' market becomes (an even greater) feast for the senses. Wild mushrooms are in abundance in Québec, and the varieties are endless. I love to mix and match varieties - experimenting with tastes and textures, adding mushrooms to everything from risottos to flatbreads to stir-fries. Flipping through an old issue of one of my favourite magazines, I was inspired to make this incredibly umami mushroom pâté. I grew up eating pâté and mustard sandwiches for lunch, but when transitioning to vegetarianism over 15 years ago, there weren't many options to replace it. Today, an abundance of veggie pâtés are on the market - but trust when I say that there is still nothing quite like this recipe. The flavours are intense and complex while remaining balanced. The touch of miso combined with the hint of tamari brings the umami experience to a whole new level. The best part is that it comes together really quickly, and stores well in the fridge for about 5 days - though, I doubt it'll last that long. It's THAT good.

Vegan Mushroom Pâté
recipe adapted from Coup de Pouce Magazine, December 2017

2 tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil
4 small shallots, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
125g shitake mushrooms, chopped
225g cremini mushrooms, chopped
125g oyster mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp. miso paste
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. tamari sauce
3 tbsp. fresh thyme
cracked black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mix vinegar with miso & 2 tbsp. water. Break the miso up into smaller bits. 
Set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium.
Add shallots and cook until translucent.
Add all mushrooms and garlic. Continue cooking about 5 to 8 minutes, until mushrooms begin to soften and shrink.
Add the vinegar-miso mixture to the pan and continue cooking about 3 more minutes.
Remove from heat.
Add thyme & black pepper.
Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse a few times. I prefer it to have a a rougher texture, but feel free to make it into a purée. Allow to cool before serving.
Keeps well in a mason jar in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. It is normal that some water will separate from the mixture. Stir well before serving.









There is a little Indian restaurant in the area where I grew up that serves one of the tastiest appetizers I've ever eaten. The dish is called Panipuri, and it's a common street food found in many regions of India. It consists of hollow puffs of crisp dough, filled with delicious chaat, served alongside chutney and tamarind water. Ever since my husband introduced me to this savoury snack, I've ordered it in various restaurants. Each chef has their own take on it, with spices and ingredient choices likely dependant on the region of India that they are from. Sometimes, the puffs are broken into pieces and mixed with the chaat then swirled with herbed yogurt. The chaat itself generally consists of diced potato, onion, and heaps of cilantro, tossed with various spices and a variety of other vegetables, nuts or legumes. 

And then, something magical happened. I took a book out of the library, solely based on how pretty the photos were. Then, I bought myself a copy, because I literally want to try every single recipe in it. One of those recipes is called Bhel Puri, a type of chaat that is mixed with puffed rice. My love of all things chaat and puri made me certain that I needed to try this recipe as soon as possible. I decided to give it my own spin by adding a few extras that I had on hand - and holy moly. You have to understand, this isn't just a salad. It's an experience. 

Need a great way to use up all of those garden cucumbers popping up right about now? Maybe you have a few too many cherry tomatoes and need them to be tossed into something tasty. Perhaps you don't even garden but you want to make a refreshing no-cook summer meal to beat the heat., or to impress at a friend's BBQ. Whatever your reason, this medley of colours and flavours is your new go-to. 

Before we get onto the recipe, just a little FYI, the book is called 'Good Veg,' and you can find it here! As always, if you place an order through any of my Amazon links, you are helping to support my blog at no extra cost to you!

Bhel Puri (Chaat)
with Tamarind Water & Mint Yogurt
adapted from Good Veg by Alice Hart

*Notes
  • For the puffed rice, I used this gluten-free brown rice cereal - it lends itself better to savoury dishes as it is unsweetened, unlike traditional Rice Krispies.
  • I buy papadums and tamarind paste in the international section of my local grocery store, and I've seen both at most large chains around here. There are also some papadums available online here and here and tamarind available here.
  • If you are planning on making this ahead of time, do NOT add the rice or the crushed papadums until just before serving - you want them to remain slightly crunchy, and putting them in too early will sog them right up!

ingredients

for chaat
800g fingerling or baby potatoes, chopped (large dice)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped 
2 cups cucumbers, diced 
2 small spring onions or shallots, finely chopped
6 large Medjool dates, chopped
1 cup pomegranate arils
1 cup puffed rice* (see notes)
6 cooked papadums, crushed + additional pappadums for serving* (see notes)
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

for tamarind water
3 tbsp. tamarind paste 
2 tsp sugar
3 cups water

for mint yogurt
1/2 cup plain yogurt (non-dairy coconut yogurt works very well!)
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp. cumin seed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 chilli pepper, minced
3 tbsp. mint leaves, chopped

method

Place potatoes in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Potatoes should be tender, but not falling apart. Drain and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine all yogurt ingredients and set aside, allowing flavours to steep.

In a separate saucepan, combine tamarind, sugar and water. Allow to come to a boil and gently break up the tamarind paste. Boil for 10 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid, discarding the paste.

Combine all chaat ingredients - if not serving right away, leave out the crushed pappadums and rice cereal, only adding once ready to serve.

Garnish each portion with tamarind water and yogurt sauce, and serve with additional papadums & lime wedges.



Have you got 5 minutes? Great! That is literally all the time you'll need to throw this bad boy together.  This cobbler was born one Sunday morning when I had less than an hour before I had to leave for brunch, and I had absolutely nothing to bring with me. Being a pastry chef means that when I am invited somewhere, I cannot simply "pick something up along the way." That would be an atrocity. Blasphemous, even. I knew I could throw something together quickly, but I just didn't know what. The giant bag of blueberries in my freezer coupled with my desire to use my large marbled baking dish led to the idea of cobbler. Aside from being extremely easy and super fast to assemble, this dessert is amazing because it's one of the few southern-inspired foods that isn't loaded with fat, so you really don't have to feel bad when you go for seconds. (And trust me, you will go for seconds thirds!)


This blog does contain one other blueberry cobbler recipe, but I think I've outdone myself this time. The previous one was still delish, but it was much more labour intensive as it required making and shaping biscuit dough. This new and improved recipe is for a cobbler without biscuits, made instead with a crispy crumbly buttery cornmeal topping. Honestly, this is going to be my go-to from now on. I can't wait to experiment with different types of fruits! Also, with only 7 ingredients and 5 minutes to prepare, why NOT make this more often?


Let's talk a bit about ingredients before you run off to the kitchen and make this. I used both frozen and fresh berries because that is what I had available. Don't have enough blueberries? Not to worry! You can add a mix of berries to this, or even some stone fruits. I love mixing the berries with sliced nectarines or peaches. Keep in mind that the baking time may increase by a few minutes if you are using all frozen, and may decrease if all fresh. As all ovens are different, just keep an eye on the colour of the cobbler after 40 minutes. You want the topping to be golden amber, not really brown, and definitely not black. Alright, let's blue this!

5 Minute Blueberry Cornmeal Cobbler
a.k.a. the easiest dessert ever

prep time: 5 minutes
cook time: 40-50 minutes

ingredients

5 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
3 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
1 tbsp. cornstarch

2/3 cup medium yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup softened butter*, cut into pieces
*use margarine or room temp coconut oil for a vegan substitute!
method

Preheat oven to 390F.

Pour berries into a deep 9x13'' baking dish.
Sprinkle with cornstarch and lemon or lime juice.
Stir until berries are coated.

In separate bowl, combine flour, sugar and cornmeal.
Add butter. Use a pastry cutter to form a crumbly dough.
Sprinkle dough over berry mixture.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until top is golden.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Extra delicious if served warm with iced cream!