The Black Cat Cafe

A man
who cooks well
and looks swell!!!


Stumbled on the Black Cat Cafe in Ottawa. Was invited to an impromptu birthday celebration. If that wasn't enough happiness for one evening. Chef Rene Rodriguez came out to greet the happy revelers. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I goggled, within swooning distance of his gorgeous self. If I breathed deeply, I'm sure I could capture some errant carbon-di-oxide that he'd just exhaled. (sigh) Yes, I can be quite creepy! Without further ado, here are the pictures, lovingly plagiarized from their website for your viewing pleasure.

Uncluttered flowing lines, minimalist decor and outrageously good food - just my kind of place!


Banana Crumb Square Things

Although you'd never guess it from my kitchen nazi demeanor, one of the main reasons I enjoy food is because I get to cook for the folks I love. Its not just about preparing food, is it? Its about all the thought, the possibilities, the minutiae... all culminating in a happy lip-smacking experience. One thats easy on the eyes and palate, nourishes your body and nurtures your spirit.

Its not always smooth sailing... A zillion different details must come together, all those taciturn ingredients with minds of their own. Knowing me, I have strong feelings about EVERYTHING and refuse to compromise because I know I'm RIGHT!! (sigh) Perhaps it is time to learn how to be gentle!! And then, with a little stirring, a little sifting, everything comes together and they all get along.

I was looking for a sweet bread that would work as a breakfast dessert and then double up as a coffee cake to serve with ice cream. I wanted something sweet but not too sweet, healthful but not obviously so... (picky, picky!) I came upon a popular recipe for Banana Crumb Muffins. Made the following changes: substituted whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup white sugar for 3/4 cup white sugar and chucked in a tablespoon of yoghurt and cut down on the butter. Used a 9 x 13 pan in lieu of muffin cups.

The bread lived up to its outstanding reviews! Everybody who tried it, liked it. It worked with coffee at breakfast. Warmed up a little, we ate it after dinner with Creme Brulee ice cream! The crumb topping was noteworthy and received quite a few compliments all on its own. Heres a bread, strong and smart, yet versatile and gentle... and popular to boot! Perhaps theres a lesson in there somewhere!


Healthy hummus and seductive sangria!

Summer holds us in thrall - a judicious mix of rain and blistering sunshine prevails. I've turned to Sangria for refuge. I asked for Sangria at a few restaurants in my whirlwind travels over the last couple months but drew blanks. I took this as a sign and made my own pitcher of sangria!

Heres what I did:

1. Added half a of cup of sugar, a cup of rum, a cup of orange juice to a bottle of red wine in a pitcher. Slice a lemon, a lime and an orange and let the mixture chill for a few hours. VoilĂ !

Judicious sipping at regular intervals suggests that the sangria is ready in four hours ... and gone in about 48 hours!

I found myself feeling a little peckish the other day and turned to one of my new favorites: roasted red bell pepper hummus. The public market is awash with red bell peppers. Enough to make Edward Weston move to Rochester!

Heres what I did:
1. Roasted two red bell peppers with garlic and olive oil.
2. Toasted a quarter cup sesame seeds with a teaspoon of olive oil till the seeds were fragrant.
3. Soaked a cup of chick peas (garbanzo beans) overnight and pressure cooked them to mush-ness.
4. Blended all of the above. Added salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste and red pepper flakes to add heat.

It turned out pretty good. Its a low-fat recipe and I was stingy with the olive oil. I'm sure a more creamy result may be achieved with a. More olive oil, b. Tahini. I've been using it as a dip, to serve with crackers and such. Quite honestly, this is a healthy hummus, one that is good to have handy when making wraps and sandwiches for self. It will not win me any adoring fans at a potluck, but thats what the Sangria is for! Enjoy!

1. Original recipe for Spanish Sangria
2. Original recipe for Red Bell Pepper Hummus



Short version: I offered these cookies to a guest. He seemed to like them. He bit into the second one and said thoughtfully, mystified yet polite, "They seem kinda petite"

Hmmm, I wondered... Does size matter?

While I am all about frisbee sized cookies, especially chocolate chunk at Jimmy John's in the Ped Mall (sigh), I will confess that my own creations tend to be somewhat dimunitive. Who knows why... perhaps, its my inner minimalist? My inescapable frugality?

I dunked the little cookie in my coffee and bit into it. Hearty and comforting,it was just the right taste and texture. A couple more bites and it was gone. Its friendly sweetness lingered. Finding myself at that tempting juncture between one-more and no-thank-you, I wondered if I wanted more.

When does one stop... satiety can be a moving target. Am I full? Yes! Would I like some more? Yes! Ha! Satisfaction is a many-splendored thing. As much a function of the chemicals I introduce into my blood stream with each mouthful, as their mysterious alchemy inside my head. For now, I will enjoy their lingering sweetness, secure in the knowledge that there is more, should I want it.


Pineapple Chardonnay Sorbet

Life, with almost feminine perversity, unfolds in a seemingly arbitrary way. And then every once in a while, the light shines, all the dots connect and clarity strikes!

Such is the tale of the pineapple chardonnay sorbet. I mulled over random ingredients in my fridge - pineapple chunks in their prime, half a bottle of reasonably good chardonnay, random selections of fruit juices... I perused my favorite food blogs and magazines listlessly. And then finally, in a flash of inspiration, the neurons in the cooking / creative center of the brain finally fired. Action potential!! The electricity travelled down the old synapses and a sorbet was born.

Heres what I did:

1. Mixed up 1.5 cups of sugar and 2 cups of chardonnay and brought to a boil.
2. When the sugar had dissolved, added 3 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 teaspoon of lime zest, 1 cup pineapple guava nectar and 3/4 cup crushed fresh pineapple.
3. Let the mixture cool and then stick it in the freezer.
4. Heres the hardest part - for the next three hours, stir the sorbet-to-be every 40 minutes to break up the ice crystals. Now you know how completely wasted my evenings are.

There you have it! A completely foolproof sorbet. Its a pretty forgiving recipe - I tossed in sugar and wine in a buoyant mood. I did however stop and taste often (wink!) I don't think the lime zest is critical. The chardonnay - pineapple combination is what makes this sorbet stand out. Made for a lovely light dessert on the fourth - we watched fireworks and slurped some sorbet!

1. Original Recipe for Pineapple Lime Sorbet from Cooking Light
2. Instructions for Watermelon Granita

Laura, over at Eat, Drink, Live is hosting this month's Hay Hay Its Donna's Summer Day with a sorbet theme! Can't wait for the round-up!