Saturday, March 31, 2012

Springtime in Montreal

lamb roast 1 fig. a: lamb roast, Mtl

For those of you who're discovering us for the first time thanks to Donna Nebenzahl's profile of " endless banquet" in the Spring 2012 issue of Urban Expressions, welcome!

For those of you who haven't seen the article in Urban Expressions, but would like to know more about springtime in Montreal à la AEB, check it out!   You'll find us waxing poetic about a number of our favourite rites of spring, as well as a number of accompanying photographs by Yours Truly.

You'll also find two springtime recipes:  the Hummus Sardwich with fresh chick peas, and the Gin Tonic.

And if you're interested in some related links, here you go:

ramps 1 & 2

snow crab 1 & 2

fresh chick peas

maple water

sugar shacks 1 & 2

artichokes 1 & 2

Spring came early this year.  Let's continue to make the most of it, Montreal.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Crunchy Granola Suite

crunchy granola suite fig. a: fresh batch

Push it / Push it good / Push it / P-Push it real good
--"Push It," Salt-n-Pepa

For years, my breakfast of champions involved a toasted Montreal bagel and a schmear of cream cheese. Mostly poppy seed, often sesame, and from time to time, when I'd been good, I might treat myself to an "everything." Usually, I'd eat these bagels with just the cream cheese, but on special occasions they might get gussied up with some capers, a slice of fresh tomato (in season), a razor thin slice of red onion, and/or some smoked fish.

That's still my breakfast of champions.  I'll choose it over other options nine times out of ten.  But in the last year or two, as my latent hippieness has become more and more apparent, my morning routine has expanded slightly: it now concludes with a small cup of yogurt topped with some homemade granola and drizzled with a splash of maple syrup.

crunchy granola suite fig. b: crunchy granola suite*

Truth be told, I've had a taste for that kind of thing for years, but it only became ritual recently, when I started to make my granola myself.

Granola became a more regular part of our homelife right around the time we started " endless banquet." Michelle had made granola before, but she experienced a granola epiphany not long after she began working for Patrice Demers.

You wouldn't necessarily expect Patrice to be a granola guru--he doesn't exactly fit the description of a hippie ("a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs," is how my dictionary characterizes the type), and his desserts are so refined, so sophisticated, so artful--not exactly "crunchy." They're hallucinant, but not necessarily hallucinogenic.

Yet those who've been paying attention will know that he's not averse to the idea of using a little bit of granola as a textural and flavorsome counterpoint in some of his desserts. So Michelle was regularly making granola à la Patrice, and what she learned is that she'd never cooked her granola long enough. Patrice's granola transcended, and his secret was that he baked his granola slow & low. What she learned was that if you wanted to take granola to a higher realm, you had to push it.

When Michelle made her deeply flavorful granola, things were good; but even though she was the one who'd had the epiphany, I was the one who was the serious convert.  I went through batches in the space of a couple of weeks, and there were times when Michelle couldn't keep up.  I was happy to make it myself, and I kept asking for the recipe, but Michelle can be cagey about her methods from time to time, even with me (professional discretion, and all that jazz).  Anyway, it took six or seven years, but, finally, after years of pleading, she let me in on the secret formula.

First off, like I said, it's more about the method than it is about the ingredients.  It's about taking your time, baking the oats and nuts at a relatively low temperature, attending to them carefully, and achieving a deep golden brown colour, at which point, not only will the granola be fully cooked through and through, but it will have a greatly expanded flavour profile.  Secondly, you can be creative with your fruit/nut/seed combinations, but we like to stick to a palette that's fairly regional: oats, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, cherries.  (If you want to get all exotic with your granola, that's up to you.)  Thirdly, feel free to adjust the sweetness, but keep in mind that when I serve the granola, the ratio of granola to yogurt is fairly small, and I only ever serve it with a premium full-fat, unsweetened yogurt.  And, lastly, people have asked me if my granola is fat free--the short answer is "no."

AEB Crunchy Granola

3 cups rolled oats, preferably organic
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 scant pinch kosher salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried cherries (optional, adjusting the amount of raisins accordingly)

Preheat your oven to 300º F.

Pour the oats into a large mixing bowl.  Add oil and mix well.  Add the honey, the maple syrup, the almonds, the pumpkin seeds, and the salt, and mix thoroughly.

Place the mixture in a 11" x 17" baking dish (there's no need to grease it--you've already added oil to the mix).  Bake, uncovered, for 1 1/2 - 2 hours (possibly a bit more), making sure to remove the baking dish every 30 minutes in order to stir the mixture thoroughly.  Bake until the mixture has the desired deep golden brown hue.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and use a spatula to transfer the granola back into your large mixing bowl (cleaned, of course).  Add the dried fruit, stir thoroughly, and let the granola cool.

Transfer granola to clean 1-liter jars.

Makes two 1-liter jars of granola.  

Get it? Got it? Good!

Now you're all ready to have some hippie yogurt for breakfast, or go on a hippie hike. Whatever, man. If it feels good, do it!


* The reference, of course, is to Neil Diamond's song of the same name.  The definitive version, in my humble opinion, is on Hot August Night.

hot august night fig. c: Hippie Neil

Sunday, March 25, 2012


We had every intention of keeping Michelle's birthday low-key this year, but, somehow, things got totally out of hand.

michelle's bday 2012

I know. When I look back on it, it just seems crazy. The theatre setting, the band,* the 5,000 guests. Totally ridiculous, right?  It wasn't "endless," exactly, but it was pretty close.

Anyway, the main thing is that we had a great time. And the smörgåsbord theme--complete with a Swedish Princess Cake finale--was a complete hit.

And, get this, if you want experience the smörgåsbord part of the experience in the presence of Michelle herself, you need only make your way to the FoodLab this week. There you'll find the following delicacies on offer, Wednesday through Saturday:

shrimp salad w/ Boston lettuce, celery, radish, apple, mayonnaise, and lemon zest

Swedish meatballs w/ gravy

beef tartare open-faced sandwich on pumpernickel w/ capers, gherkins, pickled onion, and egg yolk

house-smoked arctic char open-faced sandwich on brioche w/ crème fraîche, dill, caviar, and hard-boiled egg

house-smoked cream cheese open-faced sandwich on rye w/ Appenzeller, apple, and chives

Swedish cheesecake with cranberry coulis


Swedish Princess Cake (!)

Never had the pleasure of experiencing a true Swedish Princess Cake? It's worth a trip down to the FoodLab for that alone. You can find all kinds of crazy images of Swedish Princess Cake on the Internet (most of them suitable for Cake Wrecks), but, basically, it's a multi-layered cake that's domed with a thin layer of marzipan (tinted mint green, as per tradition, and usually decorated with a pink icing rose). The layers vary somewhat, but Michelle's includes whipped cream, genoise brushed with rum, custard, and raspberry jam, and the sum of these parts is one of the top three cakes I've ever had in my entire life. Honestly.



* The Band?