Last fall, I became obsessed with the adorable rose-shaped apple tarts that were going viral on social media. They’re so easy to make and with a light dusting of icing sugar, they make even a novice baker pass for a seasoned pastry chef. For Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make some beet and goat cheese tarts and I opted to use the same technique for a savory take on those little apple roses. It makes for a unique tart that combines sweet and savory. Served with a green salad, it’s a simple yet elegant Valentine’s Day meal.
It’s not always easy to add vegetables to our diets but I find if I don’t make a point of making a salad almost every day, I begin to feel sluggish and not at my best. I loved Mark Manson’s recent post about looking at New Year’s resolutions through the lens of developing good life habits instead of aiming for hard-to-reach goals. And a salad a day seems like a worthy habit to adopt, one that will have all kinds of positive spin-offs in your life.
I often joke that I was a flower child baby, because by the time I came into the world, my mom had already embraced many aspects of the “hippy” lifestyle of late 1970’s Montreal. One of the areas where this was most evident was in her approach to food and cooking. A cherished cookbook in our household, published the year after I was born, is Le Bonheur du végétarisme (The joy of vegetarianism) by Québec author Danièle Starenkyj. Danièle’s book turned végépâté into a Québec classic. If you go to just about any grocery store in Québec today, you will find an assortment of different brands of végépâté, so tasty they are enjoyed by meat eaters as much as by vegetarians. But veggie pâté is also incredibly easy to make at home.
I first tasted this life-changing pie this past summer at Dot’s, my favorite little cafe-deli in Lincolnville, Maine. The moment I set my eyes upon the colorful layers of all my favorite things nicely wrapped up in a flaky golden crust, I knew I needed a slice of THAT, whatever it was. It was a thing of great beauty. Dot’s calls their pie the Saturday Breakfast Tourte, because they only make it on Saturdays. And when I posted a photo of my beloved slice on Instagram, a friend mentioned that she recognized the recipe from one of Julia Child’s cookbooks.
Baking is the best way I know to get into the Christmas mood. As soon as November rolls into December, I love putting on my favorite holiday tunes, getting the wood stove crackling hot, and getting to work on old standby recipes and adventurous new ones. Like my grandmother used to do, I love having a stash of seasonal treats in a big round lidded tin in the cupboard to use as needed.
As a French Canadian, I grew up on crepes. In fact, crepes were our go-to fast food when my mom didn’t know what else to make. “I don’t know what to cook tonight” she would say to which I would inevitably respond “let’s have crepes!” If they were dinner crepes, she would make them with whole wheat flour and stuff them with something savory like mushrooms and cheese. Morning crepes were generally lighter, made with unbleached white flour and only a little bit of whole grain flour. These usually involved an unrestrained amount of butter and maple syrup. Dark buckwheat crepes were also a frequent choice and those would either be served with a savory filling or with butter and molasses. To this day, a butter and molasses buckwheat crepe is my ultimate snack when I don’t feel like making anything complicated. I’ve learned to whip up a crepe batter in 5 minutes flat. After all, crepes are essentially just flour, eggs, and milk beaten together.
Put a crème caramel in front of me and I absolutely melt. As a kid, I thought crème caramel was a fancy pants dessert that people only ate in restaurants. Given even the most tantalizing of dessert menus, if I saw crème caramel on it, my decision was already made. But sometime during my teenage years, I learned how easy it is to make at home, and between homework and band practices, I began regularly churning out little ramekins of crème caramel and other flan variations (coffee flan was a big hit for a while). This was all much to my mom’s delight since she shared my custard obsession. There’s nothing quite as simple as whisking together eggs, milk, and sugar, tucking it into the oven, and waiting for it to magically settle into a dainty wobble and become the ultimate comfort food: sweet silky goodness. Though it’s a dessert best eaten cold, I’ve always associated it with fall since that’s when I always used to make it.