Joseph Lavoie

Recipes and Parenting Hacks

Cauliflower Caper Cake

Full credit for the inspiration and method for this week’ recipe goes to Yotam Ottolenghi. You’ll find the original version of this recipe in his latest book, Plenty More.  I have made my own tweaks to his version, including the use of capers instead of basil, caraway instead of nigella seeds, and the use of Harissa paste to give the cake a little more kick.  This is a fun dish to prepare with kids, as there’s lots of cracking of eggs and mixing of flours and spices. Plus, you can tell your kids they’re going to eat cake for dinner!

Cauliflower Caper Cake

  • 1 small cauliflower, other leaves removed, broken into 1″ florets
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 7 eggs
  • 2 tbsp capers, drained
  • 2 tsp Harissa paste
  • 1 cup all purpose flower
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated parmesan
  • melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • salt and black pepper

Make it happen

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F
  2. Place the cauliflower in a saucepan with a pinch of salt and cover with water. Simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
  3. Cut 2 round slices, each 1/4″ thick, off the non-root end of the onion. Set aside in a bowl of cold water. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and add to a warm pan with olive oil and rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  4. Once the onion has cooled, transfer it to a large bowl with the eggs, capers, and Harissa paste. Whisk well.
  5. Add the flour, baking soda, turmeric, Parmesan with a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth before gently adding the cauliflower.
  6. Line the base of a springform cake pan with parchment paper and brush the sides with melted butter. Sprinkle with the sesame and caraway seeds before adding the cauliflower mixture and spreading it evenly in the pan. Arrange the onion slices on top and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and let rest a solid 20 minutes before serving.

Bengali-Spiced Salmon Stew

This dish is nothing like the last salmon dish we cooked together. While that one was nuanced and delicate, this week’s recipe is simple, bold, and spicy.  Since we’re still stuck in a winter deep-freeze,  this stew should taste exotic enough to transport you to another world.   While Ottawa was a face-numbing -40°C last week, it was 28°C and sunny in Bangladesh, which is where panch phoron—a 5-spice mix of fenugreek, cumin, black mustard, fennel and nigella seed—comes from. I couldn’t get my hands on nigella seed, so we have a 4-spice version below. By all means, if you can find nigella seed at your local grocer, add it. If you can’t, no worries, this will still taste amazing.

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Sausage Cassoulet

Here’s a simple and affordable meal fit for the season. This food of peasants—a simple mélange of affordable ingredients like sausage, pork and beans is classic comfort food. Get the fireplace roaring and get this dish on a stove and winter will feel alright again. It takes a little bit of time to make, as you want to build up flavours, but you’ll be happy you did it when you take that first spoon (or fork?) full.  And while famous chef Andre Daguin once said that cassoulet is “is not really a recipe, it’s a way to argue among neighbouring villages of Gascony,” I promise there will be few arguments at the dinner table—everyone will be too busy eating.

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Colourful Winter Salad

In the dead of winter, a root vegetable salad, balanced with some citrus can be a delightful treat. This recipe is easy and it looks refreshingly colourful on a plate. The pomelo might be hard to find, depending on your access to a good grocer or produce store, but if you can find it, it makes all the difference. If you can’t no sweat, you could use sumo citrus or grapefruit instead.

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Udon noodles with a 5-minute egg

There’s something so damn satisfying about noodles in hot broth, isn’t there?  I remember so vividly my first sip of pho at a proper Vietnamese restaurant in a derelict mall on the outer edges of  Toronto (we’re talking Jane/Finch area). I was working a summer job at a telecommunications company and the senior manager hauled me out to this joint on my first week. It was love at first sip. The scalding hot broth. The undertow of noodles. The heaping mound of cilantro. The bright spicy red sauce I’d eventually make a staple of my cooking—Sriracha. It was all foreign to me. But it was so satisfying. For four straight months,  it became  a twice-weekly event.

Years later, I would have my first bowl of ramen, at Momofuku, no less.  This was a different breed of soup. I was in the heart of Manhattan, a world away from Jane and Finch.  This was a world-renown restaurant that turned Japanese noodles into a global foodie craze of epic proportions. I was not at an unknown plaza food stall.   It may have been a different world, but the satisfaction of slurping down down a big bowl of noodles in broth was nonetheless satisfying to the soul.  Here’s my attempt at making something that will hopefully give you that same feeling, in the comfort of your home.

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Udon noodles with a 5-minute egg

  • 3 cups dashi
  • 230g (8 oz) udon noodles
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 scallions, sliced diagonally
  • 1 handful shaved nappa cabbage
  • 1 small kohlrabi, finely sliced
  • 150g enoki mushrooms
  • 1 handful sugar snap peas, sliced diagonally
  • small handful cilantro leaves
  1. Cook the udon noodles according to the package directions, drain and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the dashi to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, cook your eggs. Place them in a large pot of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes and 10 seconds. Remove the eggs from the boiling water and into an ice bath. When eggs are cool enough, peel.
  4. Transfer the noodles to deep serving bowls and add a ladleful or two of hot broth to each.
  5. Add all the veggies, top with the egg and garnish with cilantro.

Poached Salmon with Dashi

I recently discovered a new series on Netflix, Mind of a Chef, which is way more informative than 99% of the cooking shows on TV these days. Early in the series, we get an education on dashi—the quintessential Japanese soup stock—from the show’s host, David Chang. I’m a huge fan of Chang’s food, having eaten at his NYC and Toronto restaurants on multiple occasions. So when I saw how fascinated he was with the process of making good katsuobushi—the preserved and fermented fish that flavours a dashi—I couldn’t help but give it a try and make my own dashi. So I did. And then I poached some salmon and added turnips, daikon, kohlrabi and some herbs, using a small amount of dashi to give the dish a wonderful smokey layer.  It’s a pretty simple recipe, but the salmon does take some precision work—you’ll need to be attentive when poaching it—but it’s worth the effort. This dish is so delicate, yet full of umami, and fresh enough to keep you taking bite after bite.

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