Category Archives: Brunch

Fast Low-Fat French Toast with Fresh Strawberries: Necessity is the Mother of Invention with Stale Challah

Want a quick brunch dish when you have a bunch of leftovers?

I found myself with the ends of a nice sesame challah, an egg white (left from the yolk I needed for the chewy brown sugar cookies), local strawberries which needed to be used up, and some milk which had just gone sour – I know, you probably will utter “eeew yuck!” or something to that effect.  However, I find sour milk to be a great baking medium, especially when I do not have buttermilk on hand.  Its taste is not distinguishable at all in the French toast.

Challah is a wonderful base for French toast.   I love the actual French expression for French toast:  “pain perdu”, or “lost bread”.   (No, there is no “pain français,” just like there is no “Canadian bacon” in Canada – it is “pea-meal” or “back” bacon, here in the Great White North, eh?)   “Pain perdu” always makes me think of a lonely baguette wandering the streets of Paris, not knowing its way – but maybe that says more about me and how I often felt when I lived there.  This dish is known as,  in French, “pain doré” – or golden bread, ” which is quite evocative; perhaps that expression is more of a Québecois thing.  Anyone out there know more about this?

For the recipe… Continue reading

What Would Jessie Dish? Wednesdays – Week 3: Banana Muffins

Of the Jessie recipe file, this week’s banana muffin recipe was fascinating – well, to me – for three reasons:

1.  The “recipe” just listed the ingredients, baking time, and oven temperature, so I had to create the steps, from my knowledge of baking techniques – especially muffins and quick breads.

2.   I do not remember my grandmother Jessie ever having made these, so I could not compare my version to my memory – unlike last week’s brownies.

3.  The recipe was hand-written on the reverse of a sympathy-note form card.

The last item makes me wonder if Jessie wrote this recipe down some time after the late 1960s, when my grandfather died (in his late sixties himself).  He was a very well-known sports writer – he never would have called himself a “sports journalist” in the style today – and publicity man.  Grandpa Lou (or “Gooey”, as we called him, as a childish contraction of “Grandpa Louie”, I think) was a quirky self-educated newspaperman and sports promoter In fact, a character in the play (made into a movie four times!) by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur,  The Front Page was based on him, I learned just a few years ago from my mother.

My grandfather "Gooey" is just 17 years old here.

My grandfather worked closely with Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey (I have a pocket watch from Mr. Dempsey engraved with an inscription to my grandfather on Xmas Day 1929, the day of the gift), and other high-profile boxers as well as horse-racers and many other sports figures and teams.

For instance, Joe Louis, who was one of the greatest boxers in history, received considerable yet discrete financial help from my grandfather, after Mr. Louis’s agent misappropriated or mismanaged his money.

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What Would Jessie Dish? A New Wednesday Feature: Introduction to the Project and the German Pancake

My grandmother is just 16, at her high school graduation in 1920.

She could dish it up, but can I make it?

In helping my mother get ready to move into an assisted living apartment recently, I came across my mother’s copy of The Joy of Cooking.  She no longer wanted it, had not used it in many years, and said I should take it.  However, it was not it until I had returned home, when I discovered that the book had a 5” x  7” Manilla envelope containing a number of recipes from my late grandmother, Jessie.  She died nearly 20 years ago.  I cannot imagine that anyone knew whatever happened to these recipes.  So I was excited to have stumbled on this treasure trove.

There were nearly 20 recipes, half typed on 3″ x 5″ cards, with the others were written in her careful handwriting on various pieces of scrap paper (“Waste not, want not!” Jessie would implore, having lived through the Great Depression).  Most of the recipes are for baked goods (hooray!), and I do remember having eaten most of these dishes.  There are a few I am sure she did not make for me, so re-creating other recipes my grandmother made intrigues me as well.

I decided that it would be a fun feature on IslandEAT to prepare each and every one of the recipes, expanding or clarifying the directions, and assessing the results.   Many are in the short-hand of an experienced baker – and cook – who knew her technique well, so the steps are implicit – that is fine if you know the technique, of course, and, fortunately, I have developed a sense for baking over the years and am familiar with many similar recipes.

However, some recipes, especially the handwritten ones,  are completely vague and lacking directions – and even titles.   I will have to experiment to see if I can re-create what I think she had intended. What they all have in common is a no-nonsense, non-fussy simple approach with relatively few ingredients.  The recipes are primarily American or, in a few cases, European.  Some are still current and even in vogue, while others do seem rather vintage, e.g., “apricot mold”, which uses apricot jello and evaporated milk — not the kind of thing I generally make, but I am ready to try it.

From now until I have prepared all 18, I will feature a Wednesday recipe from the past, with a scan of the original recipe (and sometimes, the odd bits I have found on the reverse side), aiming to do this every week until the end of summer.  I expect to include some recollections of her, as she was a bit of a character, with a very good sense of humour, unusual turns of phrases, and quite the sharp tongue; Jessie was not afraid to ask – or ask repeatedly – for what she wanted or to let people know exactly what she thought.  I hope this summer project helps IslandEAT’s readers get a glimpse into her personality.

For more on the German Pancake and the What Would Jessie Dish? Recipe Roster

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Easy Yet Superb Brunch Dish: David Eyre’s Pancake

Ready to eat D Eyre Pancake

The pancake is perfect with lingonberries on top.

To borrow the punch line from a popular joke, my mother’s favourite thing to make for dinner was reservations. While she did make a number of dishes well, she never enjoyed cooking or baking. However, we always looked forward to her fluffy golden pancake, which we called a “German pancake”. The main reasons my mother made it were its easy preparation and its simplicity: five basic ingredients – eggs, milk, flour, sugar, and butter – with nutmeg, confectioner’s sugar, and lemon juice as optional enhancements.

Just a few basic ingredients make a great pancake.

In fact, I think this pancake – which puffs up remarkably then deflates just as dramatically – was the only brunch dish we had at home on Sunday. We always ate it with bacon and lingonberry preserves (if you have no Scandinavian specialty stores nearby, IKEA generally carries it, at a very reasonable price). Both are fine accompaniments for such an impressive yet simple brunch dish. The tangy lingonberries complement the eggy-yet-crisp pancake; by now, we should all know that everything is better with bacon.

Craig Claiborne’s David Eyre’s Pancake recipe  Continue reading

A Breakfast Dish Perfect for Olympic Champions: World’s Best Granola

The best granola in the world, with raspberries, complements yogurt

Usually I am leery of claims of the “greatest” this or the “perfect” that or other such superlatives. However, the recipe from Ina Garten’s first of many cookbooks, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, states that hers is the “best” granola. I have to agree with her.I made a batch recently to welcome the world – or at least, some of it – to our small island (one of the OY-limpic mottos for the city is “Vancouver welcomes the world”). To try to get into the Olympic spirit, I decided to invite a friend/former colleague (of the illustrious blog and virtual writing career) and her boyfriend, R, to visit on their way from Vancouver to Victoria, during their two-week visit to attend events – one each day!

Canadian maple syrup owns the podium: bronze (medium), gold (amber), and silver (clear).

More on the 2010 Olympics and the recipe for Best Granola in the World Continue reading


Cornsticks with home-made jams

Cornsticks with home-made jams

One of my favourite childhood memories was visiting an old corn mill, called the “Olde Graue Mill”, way down South in the “Land of Cotton” in a western suburb of Chicago.

We would watch the corn kernels being ground by the huge wooden, water-driven mill, over the Des Plaines River (pronounced, “Dess-plains”, with a nasal Chicago twang – none of that Frenchified pronunciation for people in the “Greater Metropolitan Chicagoland Area”, as it is still known). We purchased freshly ground cornmeal, packaged in cute burlap bags, sporting the image of the old mill. At home, we made cornbread from the mill’s recipe, in a special pan: the cast-iron cornstick pan.

Are you thinking, “What, pray tell, is a cornstick pan?” No? Are you thinking the answer is, “Something that makes cornsticks, obviously.” What? Are you a smart-aleck? But it is actually a vintage cast-iron pan, created long ago, probably somewhere deep in the US South. The pans typically feature seven corn-cob-shaped indentations:

Cornstick mold

Empty cornstick pan ready for baking

More on cornsticks, the pan, and the recipe Continue reading