Québécois Maple~Mustard Baked Beans

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Baked beans are popular additions to summer barbecue buffet tables.  Although classic Boston-style baked beans are in a tomato based sauce and sweetened with molasses, this French Canadian version is more delicate in flavor and seasoned with pure maple syrup, a staple in all French Canadian homes.  Navy beans or any white beans are soaked overnight and slowly baked in a low oven or in a crockpot with onions, mustard and bacon.  This is my mother Pierrette’s recipe but a little of my research has discovered that virtually all Québécois baked bean recipes are almost identical and go back to the 19th Century.  Such longevity is a strong testimonial to how delicious these beans are!  A favorite of traditional French Canadian hearty breakfasts, a side of these beans is enjoyed in the morning.  For breakfast recently, I served them with fried eggs and a spicy sweet potato hash to my husband who raved about the sweet-spicy combo.  Adding some sautéed greens and serving  the beans over grains turns them into a meal.  Economical, versatile and easy, they feed a crowd or can be frozen for later use.  Take your summer entertaining north of border this year with fèves au lard (pronounced fev-o-lar) and watch them vanish to rave reviews.

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Maple~Mustard Fèves au lard

1 pound of dried navy beans (cannellini or white kidney or a mix of them can be substituted)

water to soak and to cook in

1 onion, chopped 

8 oz thick cut bacon or salt pork, finely diced

1 T dried mustard

1 t salt, or more to taste

1/2 t  black pepper, or more to taste

2/3 c maple syrup

Place the beans in a casserole and pick through and discard any broken beans or stones. Cover the beans with cold water and soak overnight, at least 8 hours.  Add water to keep the beans covered, as needed.  Drain the beans.

In A Dutch oven or the bowl of your slowcooker, place the beans and add enough water to just cover the beans, about 2 1/2 cups.  Stir in the onions and bacon.  Whisk together the maple syrup and seasonings and pour over the beans. Mix well.  Cover.

If using the crockpot:  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

If using the oven method:  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes on the stove top. Transfer to oven and   bake at 275 F oven for 3 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings.  The oven baked version will be a little more golden in color and it is how my mom always makes them.

For the best flavor, baked beans are best served the day after baking them.

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Jean- Paul Lemieux, Village le long du St-Laurent, 1951 Lock Gallery, Calgary, AB

Jean- Paul Lemieux, Village le long du St-Laurent, 1951
Lock Gallery, Calgary, AB

If your travels take you to Montréal this summer, here is where you can try authentic fèves au lard:

http://eatyourworld.com/destinations/canada/quebec/montreal/what_to_eat/feves_au_lard

Sharing another traditional French Canadian dish with the talented bloggers at Fiesta Friday hosted by Angie@Fiesta Friday and co hosted by Judi@Cooking With Aunt Juju and Amanda@The Chunky Chef

 

Great balls of flowers! Amazing Allium

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Ornamental allium, cousin of the edible onion and garlic is the firework of the perennial border!  Its stunning flowers soar above other plantings punctuating the garden with floral exclamation marks.  These enchanting flowers always steal the show and never fail to make me smile.  From pure white to soft lilac to brilliant purple, they are easy to grow and are animal proof as their onion taste  is unappealing to animals.  Allium bulbs should be  planted in the fall and will naturalize.  Most allium bloom mid spring to early summer.  Some are as small as 1″ all the way to grapefruit sized Globemaster.  They are loved by bees.  Plant in a sunny location

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Allium still in the bud, soring above a perennial bed at Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne, PA.

Allium are good companion plants for other perennials. Their foliage is not attractive and will often be turning brown before the flower is open.  They do well to be planted with peonies, daisies, geraniums or shrubs.  This way they get coverage where they need it most and the underplantings get a punctuating mark bringing attention to the amazing allium flowers.  Allium are striking flowers throughout their various stages of opening.  From the tight bud with its telltale pointed chive-like tip to the opening of the glorious flower itself to the fading bloom stage, they are interesting flowers.  Even as they fade, alliums retain their wispy, skeletal framework on firm stems, providing ongoing interest in the garden.  The dried bloom is a great flower for crafts:  spray painting them gold or silver for holiday arrangements or in fall colors for a whimsical dried autumn bouquet.

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Grouping of allium naturalized at Chanticleer Gardens.

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A patch in my garden, at least 10 years old.

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The foliage of alliums is often turning brown just as the flowers emerge, underscoring the need for good underplantings with perennials to camouflage the unsightly foliage.

Allium are fun to work with in flower arranging.  Harvest them when one quarter of the flowers are open and they will continue opening and evolving in the vase.  Their bold flowers make them suitable to modern arrangements.  The flowers are best on their own as they are so striking.

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Best suited to modern arrangements, this one was created in a shallow rectangular black vessel. The allium were cut in 2 inch length offsets and secured in a metal nail frog. Three lime green hosta leaves complement the purple perfectly. River rocks camouflage the frog and bring a natural but contemporary note to the finished arrangement.

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Detail of river rocks in the modern arrangement.

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Tipping the nail frog slightly creates even more drama in the same arrangement. The river rocks hold the frog in place.

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A whimsical arrangement of a bunch of allium in a galvanized bucket. Nothing else is needed.

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Allium at Chanticleer Gardens

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Looking at the unopened white and purple allium on the right really shows how these flowers are related to chives and onions. Chanticleer Gardens.

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Astonishing allium at Chanticleer Gardens.

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Even the spent flower still brings structural beauty in the garden.

The spent flower is still striking and dramatic and perfect for craft projects.

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A whimsical dried allium bouquet spray painted in fall colors admired at Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne, PA

 I hope you have enjoyed discovering the wonders of stunning allium. A special thank you to my dear friend Dona for documenting the Chanticleer Gardens alliums for this post and for inviting me to walk in the splendor of the gardens so often with her.  She has a great eye to capture the beauty of Chanticleer.  The rest of the photos are taken in my garden.

Triple Lime~Yogurt Mini Bundt Cakes

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When I saw this recipe on the fabulous Domestic Gothess blog, I knew I had to make it!  With yogurt and ground almonds in the batter and only 1/2 cup of flour, this was a healthier cake. The triple lime hit comes from zest in the batter, a lime syrup glaze on the warm cake and more zest to top the yogurt icing ! YUM!  I made them in individual Bundt pans but they can be made as mini loaves or as a whole cake.  Adjust the baking time accordingly.

imageTRIPLE LIME~YOGURT MINI BUNDT CAKES  makes 6

CAKE

2 eggs

2/3 c sugar( castor if you have it, granulated if not)

finely grated zest of 2 limes

1/2 c unbleached flour

1/2 c ground almonds

1/4 c butter, melted

1/4 c Greek yogurt

SYRUP

juice of 1 lime

1/4 c sugar

1 T water

ICING

1/4 c Greek yogurt

1 and 3/4 c icing sugar

finely grated zest of 2 limes

2 t sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a mini Bundt pan.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until very fluffy.  Add in the zest of 2 limes.

Mix together the flour, almonds and baking powder.  Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the melted butter into the egg and sugar mixture until just incorporated.  Do not over mix.

Divide the batter among the 6 Bundt tins.  Bake on a middle rack for 25 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup by combining in a small saucepan the sugar, lime juice and water and stir, over low heat, until the sugar is dissolved.  As soon as the cakes can be removed from the tin and working on a cooling rack, prick their surface with a toothpick and brush with the lime syrup, allowing each layer to be absorbed before brushing again until all the syrup is used up.

Let cool completely while you make the icing.  Mix the icing sugar with the yogurt until smooth and thick but still pourable.  Mix the lime zest with the sugar.

Glaze each cake with some of the icing, letting it drip over the sides.  Top with the sugared lime zest.

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To see the original recipe and other delectable offerings, please visit:http://domesticgothess.com/blog/2015/04/17/mini-lime-yoghurt-loaf-cakes/

Still Life Painting of Limes, More Limes by Canadian artist Kim Blair

Still Life Painting of Limes, More Limes by Canadian artist Kim Blair

To see more of the talented Kim Blair’s colorful artwork, please visit:  http://kimblairartist.blogspot.com/2010/11/still-life-painting-of-limes-more-limes.html

Sharing this recipe and Kim’s fabulous art with the bloggers at Fiesta Friday, hosted by Angie@Fiesta Friday and co-hosted by Justine@Eclectic Odds n Sods and Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook .

Chinese Tree Peonies

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 “To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat.”  Beverly Nichols

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Close up of a beauty in the local garden of master grower, E’Ni Foo

I discovered Chinese Tree Peonies about 10 years ago at the Philadelphia Flower Show and have been in love with them ever since.  To behold a Tree Peony is to become smitten.  Yet I find they are not known to many gardeners. Chinese Tree Peonies have often been classified as exotic plants but can successfully be grown in many climates.  They are a cultural symbol in their native China, where they are called mùdān, and have been revered for more than 2,000 years.  Tree peonies are considered the king of flowers and symbolize friendship, fortune, feminine beauty, elegance and honor.  They were named the national flower of China in 1994. image

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1 year old specimen in my garden, which has yet to produce flower buds.

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A 10 year old shrub also in my garden.

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Photo from the E’Ni Foo garden.

Unlike herbaceous peonies which are better known, tree peonies  are deciduous, spreading shrubs, growing to about 4 feet in height and of greater width.  They are best planted in fall so their roots can establish themselves during dormancy. Tree peonies are easy to grow.  I love that they flower before the herbaceous peonies and at the same time as azaleas.  They extend the season of peonies in the garden.  They don’t require staking as their woody branches support the weight of the flowers.  They do not attract ants like their deciduous cousins.  They  require fertile, well drained soil and tolerate  partial shade.  They can withstand temperatures as low as -20F.  They grow slowly and once established they require little maintenance.

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A very healthy specimen with abundant flowers in the Foo garden

Note the woody branches of the tree peony.

Note the woody branches of the tree peony.

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The woody stem is steong enough to hold up the large and heavy bloom without staking.

Now prized for their often dinner-plate sized blooms with intoxicating fragrance, they come in shades as soft as white and pale pink to flamboyant hot pinks and purples.  Their names are as exotic as their blooms:  Green Dragon Lying on a Chinese Ink Stone, Tipsy Imperial Concubine, Princess Zhao Marries Beyond the Great Walls.  They were originally cultivated for the medicinal benefits of the bark of their roots.  In fact during the Maoist cultural revolution from 1966-1976 they were regarded as a bourgeois affectation and many were destroyed by the Red Guard.  If the guards could be convinced they were being grown for medicinal purposes, some specimens could be spared this horrid fate.

A Drunken Concubine tree peony flower. Magnificent and the size of a dinner plate!

Luoyang Peony Festival, image courtesy of Google

Luoyang, a city in Henan Province in Central China is considered the peony capital of the world.  It hosts the famous Luoyang Peony Festival from mid April to mid May every year.  There over a million peony trees  in bloom and over 1,200 different varieties showcased.  Peak viewing is from April15-25th.  Luoyang is a 4 hour train ride from Beijing.  To tour the famous Luoyang Peony Festival, please click on this short video clip by Lucianno Bosticco,  courtesy of Vimeo.   https://vimeo.com/68792631 The peony is revered in China and appears in many decorative items.

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A  beautiful fan with tree peonies on silk, a gift from a Chinese friend.

 

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A favorite silk scarf, a gift from my Chinese friend Hui, who is from the Luoyang province, home of the first known peonies. An artful celebration of peonies on silk!

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A harmonious pairing of Chinese Tree Peonies in the foreground and azaleas in the background in the magnificent gardens of the local Foo family home.

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My Itho hybrid is just now budding and will bloom with magnificent yellow flowers, edged in orange.

 

Tree peonies have been extensively hybridized thanks to Chinese, Japanese, French, German and American growers. The hybrid tree peonies are more readily available and at better prices than in the past.  These shrubs however are still pricey but they are great performing plants and can last decades in the right growing conditions. Yua’s Yellow is still available today and thought to be one of the oldest varieties going back to 1034.  The Itho varieties are actually intersectional hybrids, an intermediate between tree and herbaceous peonies.

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Itho peony in bloom. Oh, the fragrance!

 

 

 

 

image Because the flowers are intricate and spectacular on their own, I usually float a single bloom to create a very simple arrangement.

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One of my favorite ways to display or gift a single, magnificent bloom: floating in a teacup where its intricate center can be admired by the recipient.

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Floating a single bloom in a glass pedestal vessel is one of my favorite ways to enjoy my tree peonies.

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Detail of a floating peony.

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The first tree peony to bloom in my garden.

I hope I have helped you discover Chinese Tree Peonies or learn something new about them! Special thanks to E’Ni Foo for graciously allowing me to photograph many of his exquisite tree peony specimens for this post.  His private garden is a sight to behold and a privilege to visit. References:  NY Botanical Garden; The Peony Society; Fragrantica.com image

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CHEESY CAULIFLOWER BACON WAFFLES

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“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.”
― Leslie Knope

If you are still reading, you are probably totally intrigued by the concept of a savory waffle like I was.  I started with a recipe in Greene on Greens and turned up the volume on these outrageous waffles by roasting the cauliflower first and in bacon fat.  Aged cheddar and parmesan are added and the whole thing is served with a side of marinara sauce and a dollop of crème fraîche.  Redefines brunch in a totally delicious way.  A fitting celebration of the first outdoor breakfast on the terrace.

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CHEESY CAULIFLOWER BACON WAFFLES  Makes 10-12 small waffles

6 slices of uncured bacon

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into flowerlets

1 egg

1 c milk

1/4 c heavy cream

2 T reserved bacon fat

3/4 c unbleached flour

1 t baking powder

1/2 c grated aged cheddar

2 T grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg white beaten into soft peaks

To  serve:  marinara sauce, crème fraîche, fresh basil leaves

In a 350 F oven place the six slices of bacon on a baking sheet and scatter the cauliflower on top.  Roast for 30 minutes, until bacon is crisp and the cauliflower golden.  Place 3/4 cup of the cauliflower in the container of a blender.  Crumble 4 slices of the bacon and reserve the remaining 2 for serving presentation.  To the cauliflower add the egg, bacon fat, milk and cream.  Blend until smooth.  Dump into a medium bowl.  Add the flour and baking powder and mix just until incorporated.  Mix in the cheeses and crumbled bacon.  Gently fold in the egg white.

Heat your waffle maker.  Coat with cooking spray and add the batter as you normally would.  Cook until waffles are golden and can be lifted.  I found they took a bit longer than regular wwaffles to cook.  Serve with a small ramekin of marinara to dip the waffles into and a dollop of crème fraîche.  For presentation, scatter chiffonade cut basil over the waffles and a piece of bacon into the crème fraîche.  OMG were these  good!

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Puréed cauliflower with milk, cream and bacon fat

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Batter with flour, bacon and cheeses added and the egg white being folded in

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This batch was cooked like regular waffles and were a bit softer

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This batch was cooked to a crispier texture but the cheese made them darker. Still delicious and a matter of preference.

 Taking this to my fellow bloggers at Fiesta Friday, hosted by Angie@Fiesta Friday and co-hosted by Caroline@Caroline’s Cooking and Jess@Cooking is my Sport.  Join us and be inspired by the culinary talent from all over the world!  Fiesta Friday is now on Pinterest!

Honey~Chipotle Grilled Steak

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It’s Cinco de Mayo and a beautiful night to eat under the stars.  Not being a seasoned cook of Mexican dishes, I turned to one of my trusted sources for enticing recipes, The Frugal Housefrau, who from the name of her blog you would not suspect her to be a master of Fiesta Cuisine. Trust me, she is!  This recipe is great with a cheaper cut of beef because it is tenderized with a marinade.  It is ideal with flank steak, top round or New York strip.  One large steak is grilled then sliced for the table.  Wih a double layering of flavors from first the marinade then a glaze, this steak packs a powerhouse of seasoning.  Ours was served with a Mexican rice with corn and cilantro and a salsa of black beans, tomatoes and avocado(recipe follows). To see the original recipe, please click here.

MARINADE FOR STEAK

1 1/2 lb flank steak

3 T olive oil( mine was lime infused)

3 T freshly squeezed lime juice

1 t cumin

1 clove garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients and marinade the steak for 1-4 hours, turning occasionally.  Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.  Discard marinade.

HONEY~ CHIPOTLE GLAZE

2T Honey

1 T Dijon

1 T Hoisin sauce

1 T freshly squeezed lime juice

2 t of chopped up chipotles in adobo sauce from a can

1 clove garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients together( can be made ahead up to 2 days). Preheat grill to the hot setting.  Brush each side of the steak with the glaze, reserving some for the finished steak.  Grill the steak on each side for 3-4 minutes for medium-rare temperature.  Rest the meat under a tent of foil for 5 minutes before slicing on the diagonal.  Serve with extra lime wedges.  My glaze did not caramelize as much as the original.  We grilled on medium and it was not hot enough.  If your glaze tends to be on the runny side as mine was, bringing it to a quick boil would thicken it more to the consistency of a BBQ sauce.  It was still really delicious and flavorful.

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BLACK BEAN AVOCADO SALSA

1 c black beans

1 c chopped tomatoes

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into cubes

3 T red onion, diced

3 T fresh cilantro, chopped

juice of 1-2 limes

1/2 t cumin

salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together.  Serve with chips or as a side salad for a Mexican themed meal.

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Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Rhubarb~Yogurt Pound Cake with Rhubarb Glaze

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“Never rub another man’s rhubarb.”

Jack Nicholson, The Joker, Batman, 1989

It’s rhubarb season and everywhere in farmers’ markets the gorgeous stalks are awaiting transformation in the kitchen.  This pound cake showcases tart slices of the fruit encased in a batter made with olive oil, yogurt and scented with aromatic cardamom and orange zest.  Each bite still lets the beloved tartness of rhubarb shine.  The result is a moist delectable cake with a gorgeous pink rhubarb glaze.  I divided the batter in mini loaves so I could freeze them.  The recipe can make a classic loaf as well.

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Rhubarb is prized nutritionally for its low calorie, high fiber content.  Rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, it provides B complex vitamins, iron, copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.  Cardamom is also rich in antioxidants, iron, manganese, vitamins B amd C, potassium, calcium and magnesium. (Www.nutrition-and-you.com).  This is a cake with a huge nutritional punch!

While it is in season, take a bunch of rhubarb home and get creative incorporating it into your cooking.

RHUBARB~YOGURT POUND CAKE WITH RHUBARB GLAZE

Adapted from Tasting Table

1 1/2 c plus 1 T unbleached flour

2 c rhubarb, cut in 1/2″ slices

1 c Greek yogurt

1 c sugar

3 large eggs

zest of 1 large orange

1/2 t vanilla extract

1/2 c olive oil

2 t baking powder

1/2 t ground cardamom

1/2 t kosher salt

butter to grease your pan

For the glaze: 1 cup chopped rhubarb, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease either a mini loaf pan or full loaf pan with the  butter.  Toss the rhubarb with the 1 T flour.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl:  flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom.

Mix together the wet ingredients:  eggs, sugar, zest, olive oil, yogurt, vanilla.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet until just combined.  Fold in the rhubarb.  Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Bake in the center of the oven for 40-45 minutes if using a mini loaf pan or 50-60 minutes if using a full loaf pan.

To make the rhubarb syrup, bring the rhubarb, water and sugar to a boil, reduce heat and continue cookiing until syrup is pink and able to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.  Puncture the cake with a toohpick and pour the strained glaze over, while it is still warm.

Serve plain or with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

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Advertising art by Cicely Mary Barker for Taylors of Harrogate Tea company

Advertising art by Cicely Mary Barker for Taylors of Harrogate Tea company