Friday, October 26, 2012

Gourmet smoked salmon pasta made by a true daddy’s girl

I have to agree with my husband N. on that, I am a real daddy’s girl. Anything my daddy does always is heroic to me. With all fairness he is a great man. He never accepts defeat or gives up on life. He is a real motivator and an encyclopedia of general knowledge. All due to this many travels, his hobbies and to reading tons and tons of books about various topics. Since young I looked up to him. 

Left: My dad, Bahir Keldany, painting.  Right: One of his gorgeous painting.
We used to sit on the balcony gazing at the stars and chitchat about different topics. He never looked down on me or ridiculed my arguments. My dad travelled a lot and lived in different cities throughout his life. His last and actual destination was Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where he created a new company called Al Fumo. From the textile factory owner, to the Spanish embassy commercial delegate, to a smoked salmon delicacy artisanal shop, he has done it all. I am a proud daughter and it shows. Hehehe

With my dad some years ago in a spanish restaurant in Montreal
So even though my Papi is far from me now, we keep in touch through the miracle of the net. Skype is our haven and we still chitchat even though his days are now my nights. And when he visits or if somebody visits from Dubai he sends me some of his delicious Al Fumo cold smoked salmon. Last month he sent me delicious smoked salmon filets. Being so delicious I could have eaten them with some lemon and capers, but I wanted to go the extra mile as usual. So I opened the fridge and found some peas, cream and some fresh herbs. Voila, easy peasy. A no brainer: Pasta with peas, mint, parsley and salmon bites in a creamy sauce. Oh my God, it came out divine! 

Salmon is not just tasty; it is also so healthy for you. Here are some facts: Studies have shown that smoked salmon can help fight off coronary heart disease due to the Omega-3 oils it contains. These oils can decrease blood lipids, increase relaxation in large arteries and other blood vessels, and can also decrease vascular system blood clotting as well as inflammatory processes in blood vessels. There have also been recent studies that which show that besides lowering the risk of heart disease, smoked salmon has also been known to help individuals who have asthma, psoriasis, certain cancers and arthritis. For more info log to: 

My dad being quite a fisherman and hunter always brought home his catch of the day. So since young this triggered my imagination and I started preparing very tasty dishes around the game and fish he brought. He also taught me how to prepare meat cuts and season them. My daddy is a cool guy and he will always be my second man after my dear husband. God bless him and grant him a long and healthy life! I love you Papi.

For more information about Al Fumo Smoked Salmon go to:

My dad on his various fishing trips then and now.

Cold-smoked salmon bites in a creamy peas and mint sauce

For 4-6 servings
Prep time 5-10 min
Cook time 15 min

2 Al Fumo cold-smoked salmon filets (or any smoked salmon filet sold in your area; trout is a good substitute)
1 cup of good quality mini peas (fresh or frozen)
2 green shallots minced
4-5 minced fresh mint leaves (preferably from your garden)
4-5 minced Italian parsley branches (Italian parsley has larger leaves)
1 cup of fish or vegetable stock cubes
1 cup of 15% cream
1 tsp of corn starch (optional)
Good quality Italian spaghettini or any pasta you like
1 tsp of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Skin the salmon filet and cut them in bite size pieces. Put some butter in a pan and add the shallots. Sauté for 40 sec and add the stock and cream. Let it simmer for 5-7 min till reduced to ¾. In the mean while cook your pasta as shown on package. Remember to cook the spaghetti al dente. So they should be just cooked and still a bit crunchy. Your pasta will cook more when you add the hot sauce. So don’t overcook if you want delicious spaghetti with a bite. Add the peas and salmon bites to your creamy sauce. Cook for 2 minutes till salmon is opaque and peas are bright green. Lastly add your mint and parsley and serve right away. If your sauce is not thick enough or you prefer a creamier sauce add the corn starch to a tbsp of water, mix well and add to you sauce. This will thicken it right away. Note: You can mix the pasta/spaghettini with your sauce if you like.
Enjoy, Bonne Appétit, Sahten! 

Le coin Francophone

Saumon fumé dans une sauce crémeuse aux petits pois et mente

Pour 4-6 personnes
Temps de préparation 5-10 min
Temps de cuisson 15 min

2 filets de saumon fumés à froid Al Fumo (ou du filet de saumon fumé vendu dans votre région. La truite est un bon substitut)
1 tasse de petits petit pois bons mini-qualité (frais ou congelés)
2 échalotes vertes hachées
4-5 feuilles de menthe fraîche hachée (de préférence de votre jardin)
4-5 branches de persil hachées (persil italien italienne grandes feuilles)
1 cube de bouillon de poisson ou de légumes (ou une demi tasse de bouillon maison)
1 tasse de crème 15%
1 cc de fécule de maïs (facultatif)
Spaghettini ou pâtes italienne de votre choix
1 cc de beurre
Sel et poivre au goût

Ôtez la peau des filets de saumon et les couper en petits cubes. Mettez un peu de beurre dans une poêle et ajouter les échalotes. Faire sauter pendant 40 secondes ensuite ajouter le bouillon et la crème. Laissez mijoter pendant 5-7 min jusqu'à ce que le tout est réduit au trois quart. En attendant, faites cuire vos pâtes comme indiqué sur l'emballage. N'oubliez pas de faire cuire les spaghettis al dente. Donc, ils doivent être bien cuits mais encore un peu croquants. Entre temps faites cuire les spaghettini al dente. Ajoutez les petits pois et les cubes de saumon à la sauce. Cuire pendant 2 minutes jusqu'à ce que le saumon soit opaque et les pois garde leurs belles couleurs vertes. Surtout ne pas trop cuire. Sinon vous perdiez la fraicheur du plat. Enfin ajouter la menthe et le persil et servir aussitôt. Si votre sauce n'est pas assez épaisse ou si vous préférez une sauce plus onctueuse ajoutez la fécule de maïs dissoute dans un peu d’eau fraiche. La fécule épaissira la sauce immédiatement. Remarque: Vous pouvez mélanger les pâtes ou spaghettini avec votre sauce si vous le souhaitez et la servir aussitôt. Bonne Appétit, Sahten!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gourmet Orange Blossom Madeleines, bringing some sunshine on a rainy day

I am always looking for ideas of healthy treats for my girls and as homemade gifts. Two years ago I tried a Madeleine recipe features in a book called Pâtisseries Maison (Marabout) written by the very talented FlorenceEdelmann. I have to confess, I never liked Madeleines before. Most of the ones you buy in stores are too cakey and dry. So I was reluctant to try Florence’s recipe.

My daughter Lola insisted though that I give the recipe a try. She needed to bring a treat for a special day at school. So, I decided to try it and add my imprint on the recipe (as usual). If I can’t improve on a recipe, I don’t feel it is really mine. Hehehe

I added some mandarin zest, some Orange blossom honey, drops of orange blossom water and 15 minutes later I had an amazing smelling treat baking in my oven. The house smelled so good. If I could put a name on the Aroma I would name it orange euphoria! The aromas of oranges filled the house and I had lots of nostalgia to my grandmother’s kitchen.  The Madeleines were perfect; Small, fluffy, aromatic with a hint of honey goodness. I baked them in small Madeleine silicone molds. So they were just bite size. My girls were thrilled and it took 3 minutes for the first batch of Madeleines to disappear in their mouths.

From that day on we were all hooked on the Orange Blossom Madeleines. We enjoy them on any occasion. When it was a gray rainy day like today, the aroma of Orange Blossom Madeleines brings some sunshine to our hearts.

So when I visit friends or family I always bring my famous Orange Blossom Madeleines or some of French Macarons for the host. Giving a handmade treat is always special. It is a gift that shows you really care. Next time you are invited to friends, bring some of my special Madeleines with you. Just remember that they are at their best the first day or when just coming out of the oven. You will see, they disappear fast!
Bonne Appétit, Sahten, Enjoy!

Orange Blossom Madeleines

Makes about 24 regular or 36 mini Madeleines
Style of dish: Dessert
Note:  Dairy free
Prep time: 10-15 min
Cooking time: 12-15 Min
Resting time: Minimum 1h (best one night in the fridge)

2 large eggs
150g of powder sugar (If you don’t have, regular white sugar will do)
1 tsp vanilla sugar (or liquid vanilla)
1 pinch of salt
150g of flour
1 tsp instant yeast
125g soft butter (1 stick)
Zest of 1 Orange, Mandarin or Clementine
1 tsp of Orange Blossom Honey (or Flower Blossom Honey)
1 tsp of Orange Blossom Water (optional but a real plus)

Mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla sugar and salt till well combined and light in color. Mix in the zest, the orange blossom water and the honey. In another bowl sift the flour. Then add the yeast and blend well. Gradually add the sifted flour mix and the soft butter to the egg mix. Your dough should be fluffy and a bit elastic. Overworking your mixture will harden your madeleines. 

Put your mixture in the fridge for one hour or overnight. Take out your mixture and leave for 10 minutes at room temperature to soften the dough for easy handling. Fill your madeleine molds or any small molds on hand. 
I prefer silicone molds as they don’t need buttering. Preheat your oven to 340°F (170°C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or till the madeleines are firm and light gold. Enjoy while still warm or the same day. Madeleines can be stored for up to 3 days in a airtight container after they cool down. Enjoy!

Le coin Français:

Madeleines à la Fleur d’Oranger

Pour environ 24 Madeleines régulière ou 36 mini Madeleines
Type de plat: Entremet
Temps de préparation: 10-15 min
Temps de cuisson: 12-15 min
Temps de repos: 1h minimum (mieux une nuit dans le réfrigérateur)

2 gros œufs
150g de sucre en poudre (Si vous n'avez pas, du sucre blanc régulier fera l'affaire)
1 sachet de sucre vanillé (ou 1 cc d’extrait de vanille)
1 pincée de sel
150g de farine
1 cc de levure instantanée
125g de beurre mou (1 bâton)
Le zeste de 1 orange, mandarine ou clémentine
1 cc de Miel d'Oranger (ou miel de fleur de fleur)
1 cc d'eau de fleurs d'oranger (facultatif mais fera la différence)

Mélanger les œufs, le sucre, le sucre vanillé et le sel jusqu'è ce que le mélange blanchisse. Ensuite incorporer le zeste, l'eau de fleur d'oranger et le miel. Dans un autre bol tamiser la farine. Puis ajouter la levure et bien mélanger. Incorporer ce mélange de farine tamisée et le beurre mou è votre appareil. Le mélange doit être moelleux et un peu élastique. Ne pas trop manipuler pour ne pas obtenir des madeleines dur ou sec.

Mettez votre mélange au réfrigérateur pendant une heure ou toute la nuit. Sortez votre mélange et laisser reposer 10 minutes à température ambiante pour ramollir la pâte pour faciliter la manipulation. Remplissez vos moules à madeleines ou des petits moules de votre choix.
Personnellement je préfère les moules en silicone car ils n'ont pas besoin de beurre. Préchauffez votre four à 340 ° F (170 ° C). Cuire pendant 12 à 15 minutes ou jusqu'à ce que les madeleines soit dorées. Manger à la sortie du four ou le même jour. Madeleines se gardent maximum pendant 3 jours dans un contenant hermétique après qu'ils refroidissent. Bonne Apétit!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Winters in the Dominican Republic inspiring a Hearty Pumpkin Coconut Milk Chicken Soup

The seasons are changing and the cold weather is slowly easing in. I am craving soups, stews and roasts more than ever now. I guess there is a comfort food for every season. Last year I spent ten month with my family in the Dominican Republic where tropical produce is abundant but variation is not. Many local ingredients I had not added to my usual dishes before. 

As I am half syro-lebanese I tend to favor foods that have species, herbs, lamb, yoghurt, nuts, etc. Coconut is only meant for dessert in my part of the world. So spending almost a year among the coconut palm trees and pineapple plants encouraged me to create savory as well as sweet dishes inspires by my surroundings. I have to tell you, I became quite creative. I was kind of limited in the village of Las Terrenas where we were living. I remember buying legumes I had not seen before. I will be posting more recipes I had made or created in the DR.

Most of the year you can buy auyama “slices” at local fruits & vegetables stales. At first I had no clue what auyama was. But being very curious, I bought a slice. I later on was told auyama was the local appellation for pumpkin. Being sold only in sliceform, I could not recognize the pumpkin.  So the auyama/pumpkin slice stayed in my fridge for 4 days before I decided to use it in a hearty soup dish. On hand I had chicken pieces, coconut milk and fresh coconut flesh, some local cilantro (called cilantro cimaron or cilantro ancho), potatoes and some garlic.

All these yummy ingredients came together beautifully and the hero of the dish was the pumpkin. Who would have thought a slice of pumpkin miles away from home would inspire me to create such a tasty soup. Maybe it is the sea and palm trees, maybe it was my mood, but I think it was definitely the warmth of the Dominican people who inspired me and encouraged me to try new produce.

We enjoyed the soup so much that I made it several times that winter and this autumn I made it again using squash. It is an easy and delicious dish. Hearty and creamy, perfect for colder days. All ingredients can be found at your local stores. You can substitute the cilantro cimaron by regular cilantro. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Coconut Milk Chicken Soup
Soup for 4-6 people
Style of dish: Main dish
Serve with steamed white basmati; jasmine rice or coconut rice
Note: Gluten free; Dairy free

1/4 of a regular size pumpkin cut in cubes (you can use any other squash you prefer)
1 tbsp Coconut or canola oil
1 whole chicken (skin and fat removed) 8-piece cut
2 bunches of fresh cilantro (or 3 leafs of cilantro ancho) chopped
1 cup of coconut milk
1 cup of chicken stock (homemade or good store brand)
3-4 potatoes skinned and sliced
2 cloves of garlic sliced finely
Salt to taste

Heat a regular size pot and add the coconut oil. When it starts to sizzle add the pumpkin cubes and stir till they start to caramelize a bit. Don't overcook the pumpkin. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 sec then pour in the coconut milk and chicken stock. Let it cook for 5 min then add the potato slices and chicken piece to your pot. If using the cilantro ancho cimaron add the leafs at this point. If using the regular cilantro it is preferable to add them in the end to keep their fresh crisp taste. Let your soup simmer on low heat for about 20 more minutes or till the chicken and potatoes are soft. Some of your pumpkin would have dissolved. Don't worry, it is here for the taste and to add some color.

Buen Provecho my friends. Bonne Appétit. Sahten!


Le coin Français:
Utiliser l’utile translate de Google sur mon site pour la traduire le reste du texte. Un outil facile et pratique. Merci de me lire.

Soupe de poulet au lait de coco et citrouille
Soupe pour 4-6 personnes
Style de plat: Plat principal
Servir avec du riz basmati cuit à la vapeur blanc ou riz au jasmin ou riz à la noix de coco
Remarque: Sans gluten, sans produits laitiers

1/4 d'une citrouille coupé en cubes (vous pouvez utiliser n'importe quelle courge d’hiver de votre choix)
1 cuillère à soupe de l'huile de noix de coco ou de canola
1 poulet entier (ôter peau et graisse) coupé en 8 morceaux
2 bouquets de coriandre fraîche (ou 3 feuilles de coriandre ancho) haché
1 tasse de lait de coco
1 tasse de bouillon de poulet
3 - 4 pommes de terre pelées et tranchées
2 gousses d'ail finement émincé
Sel au goût

Chauffer une casserole de taille normale et ajouter l'huile de noix de coco. Quand l’huile commence à crépiter ajouter les cubes de citrouille et remuer jusqu'à ce qu'ils commencent à caraméliser un peu. Ne pas trop cuire la citrouille. Ajouter l'ail et cuire encore 30 secondes puis versez le lait de coco et le bouillon de poulet. Laissez cuire pendant 5 min, puis ajouter les pommes de terre et les morceaux de poulet à votre casserole. Si vous utilisez la coriandre ancho/cimaron ajouter les feuilles à ce stade. Si vous utilisez la coriandre régulière, il est préférable de l’ajouter à la fin pour garder son  goût frais et sa texture. Laissez mijoter la soupe à feu doux pendant environ 20 minutes ou jusqu'à ce que plus le poulet et les pommes de terre soient tendres. Plusieurs morceaux de citrouille serait dissous mais ne vous inquiétez pas, la citrouille est là pour le goût et pour ajouter un peu de couleur.

Buen provecho mes amis. Bonne Appétit. Sahten!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A workshop in food photography with Béatrice Peltre and a simple apple tart recipe

Lately Food Photography and Food Styling is so in vogue. 
No wonder! We eat first with our eyes. When a plate looks appealing we want to try it. To me smell comes first of course. A plate has to smell good to make me salivate and want to dig in. Nevertheless I do agree that when creating a food blog, good great photography is a must. You wouldn't buy a cookbook with dark and unstylish pictures! So no wonder lately there has been a food photography craze. I have to agree. It is quite contagious. Especially for those who want to have a food blog that will stand out on the web.

At first it seems real easy to have the perfect food picture. Especially for somebody with some photography knowledge. It is tricky though and you need to learn the tricks of the trade. So 2 weeks ago I took Béatrice Peltre's (from the blog food styling and photography workshop organized by Mayssam (from the blog

We are so lucky to finally have styling and food photography classes given 
in Montreal. I spent seven exciting hours with Béa and a group of creative bloggers learning her techniques and her vision. Her award winning food blog "la tartine gourmande" have inspired me years ago to start my blog. 
I admire her style and how she captures simple dishes and makes them look breathtaking. Her new book "Recipes for an Inspired Life" is a must have!

A tripod with an extended arm helps you get clear pictures from above. 
The class was given at the FoodLab at Society of Arts and Technology (SAT) in Montreal and we each brought some props (fabrics, dishes, silverware, etc.) to experiment with. The food lab provided the food for our lunch and for the photography/styling. It felt like being in a candy store.

I learned so much and am excited to share with you via my blog some of my food photography and styling tricks. I am self taught mainly but I believe that through trial and error you end up learning a lot.

For learning more about food photography and food styling I highly recommend Helene Dujardin book (from the blog Tartellete): Plate to Pixel. Another book that is recommended by many blogger and that I am planning on purchasing soon is : Focus On Food Photography for Bloggers by Matt Armendariz. Finally for some styling ideas, Food Presentation Secrets: Styling Techniques of Professionals by Cara Hobday and Jo Denbury, is a good book to get inspired from and learn how the pros do it.

Recipe: Simple Thin Crust Apple Tart with Lavender Honey
Makes about 10- 12 thin crust tarts

 Pie dough:
(you can use a good ready made crust from your local baker if you want)
 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
8 oz butter, cold and cut into cubes
½ cup ice water

2 small apples very thinly sliced with a mandoline
10 tsp butter
Some raw sugar to drizzle over tarts
2 tbsp Lavender Honey
1 tbsp Lavender Pods (optional)

 Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse a couple of times to incorporate all ingredients. Add the cubed and cold butter. Pulse about 10 to 12 times until butter and flour mixture is crumbly. Add the ice water while machine is running until dough comes together. Do not overwork it. Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a ball. Wrap in plastic and flatten it into a disk. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours (dough can be freezed at this point for a later use).

Preheat your oven to 300 F. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and if it's too hard to roll, let it come to room temperature for about 10 minutes. Roll to 1/8" thick. Cut circles with tart rings. Layer your apple slices to form a nice design. Add some butter on top each tart and drizzle some raw sugar on each. Place your tarts on a sheet pan lined with parchment or slipat and bake for 10-12 min (on the  middle rack). Watch your oven so your tarts won't overcook or burn. Each oven is different. They are ready when the edges have a nice caramel color. Transfer tarts to a wire rack and drizzle some lavender honey on top of each. Let cool and serve with some lavender pods. Bonne Apetit.


Inside joke: Catou, my 5 year old just asked me. Mami, what are you doing on your computer.  I am writing a post on my blog sweetie, I answered. With big eyes she looked at me and said: Mami, what is a blob and what does it do? Moral of the story... I needed a good laugh. Hope I brought a smile to your lips.