Monthly Archives: August 2011

the best – salad


I admit it’s a bit of a stretch to say this is The Best salad but it’d pretty darn good. I had actually forgotten how good until I made it again recently. It’s description goes something like this – a Pear, Endive and Watercress Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and Gorgonzola Cheese in a Hazelnut Dressing.

I first made this salad when I worked as a chef at Pastis Restaurant in Vancouver. It was my first serious cooking job out of culinary school and I was delighted to find myself in an award winning French bistro restaurant with an immensely talented European-trained chef and a group of hard-working female chefs. Yes, that’s right the entire kitchen (with the exception of two or so men who passed through our ranks) were women. If you know anything about the cooking industry than you know this is a rather rare circumstance.  However, Frank Pabst, our head chef, liked the energy and work ethic of an all female kitchen where egos rarely got in the way and we all worked toward a common goal.

I still have all of my small notebooks filled with recipes from my days as a chef. The notebooks had to be small enough to fit in your pocket or at the very least hide at your station. I also have scores of menus with handwritten notes about the special requirements for that evening’s dinner. Looking back on them now I can remember the exhilaration and trepidation of heading into a service that was going to be fast-paced but also had to be technically perfect.

This salad was a staple at the restaurant. It’s a perfect combination of crunchy, sweet, bitter, creamy and tangy tastes and textures. It’s one of those dishes where every bite is slightly different than the one before it.

Making this salad for these photos I was reminded of many of the tricks I learned from Frank. He really taught us to cook with all our senses. As a chef in a fast paced kitchen, you have to be able to multi-task in the most absurd way. No easy feat when a moment’s distraction can result in burned crust, overwhipped cream, or overcooked fish. In order, to keep in top of everything you really need to be super aware of your surroundings.

Pear, Endive and Watercress Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and Gorgonzola Cheese in a Hazelnut Dressing – makes 1-2 servings

1 pear

2-4 endives

1 head of watercress

1/2 cup halzelnuts – toasted

2-4 tablespoons of gorgonzola cheese

Hazelnut Dressing

30 mL sherry vinegar

30 mL hazelnut oil

62 mL vegetable oil

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp  hazelnut butter

warm water to thin as necessary

salt and pepper to taste

For the Dressing: Combine vinegar, dijon, and hazelnut butter in a bowl or blender. Slowly add the oils one at a time until the dressing emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper and adjust the consistency with warm water as necessary.

For the Salad: Wash and clean the watercress and put to one side to dry. Chop the endive horizontally in 1/2 inch pieces discarding the hard, solid core. Peel, core and slice the pear into thin wedges. Rub the toasted hazelnuts in a clean dish towel to remove the skins. Place the watercress, endive, pear and hazelnuts together in a bowl and top with a few tablespoons of dressing. Gently toss being careful not to bruise the watercress. Top with chunks of gorgonzola cheese.

Have you ever had a salad like this before? Do you have a favourite salad you return to time and time again?

Filed under in the night kitchen, the best

hello! neighbor – annie & michael


Before we visit this month’s Hello! Neighbor house I’d like to announce the winner of the Alanna Cavanagh Empty Belly print. The lucky recipient is Sarah Ward! Congratulations Sarah! And a big thanks to everyone else who entered. The response was really phenomenal and I know Alanna was touched by all of your sweet comments. For those of you that would like to purchase your own Alanna print you can do so at either Oliver Yaphe or at Telegramme prints.

Now on to our August house tour. Annie and Michael’s house was a delight to visit. Annie’s distinct vintage style is evident in every room of her house. She has really created a loving, unique home for her family of four. Annie & Michael also play a huge part in our community with a thriving music school located on Roncesvalles Avenue. If you live in the neighborhood, I’m sure you’ll recognize their faces and if you didn’t before you will now! Stop by and say hello.

Enjoy the tour!


Annie McDonald & Michael Johnston


Annie: writer, blogger, chef

Michael: musician, teacher; together, co-owners of the Michel Johnston Music Studio

How long have you lived in your home?

11 months

Any kids or pets?

2 kids: Lila, nearly 5, and Winston, nearly 2

Which room do you spend the most time in? Why?

Michael: I love hanging out in our living room. Taking off my shoes, feet on the ultra-soft carpet, and sinking back into a few pillows on the couch is a perfect moment homecoming for me. More and more, Annie and I are able to carve out a moment at night’s end to sit with a glass of wine in hand, and catch up on the seemingly endless adventures that mark our days.

Annie: As a family, we spend the lion’s share of time in the kitchen, because it is (relatively) big, bright, and has something for everyone – alcohol, food, books, music, and toys – but when we four are not there, you will likely find us hanging out in the playroom (which could also arguably be said to have something for everyone). Hence, those are by far the two messiest rooms in our house.

 Is there anything you would change about your house? Future plans?

Because we are renting, we try as much as we can to confine changes to things we can take with us. I am on the hunt for new shades for a couple of my wilder vintage lamp purchases, and I have also been systematically replacing the uninspired light fixtures that were here when we moved in. Of course, if I had the time (and be warned – I haven’t fully ruled it out at this point) I would happily repaint every single wall in the house! And in my dream world, I have grand plans for the kitchen…

How did you end up living in Parkdale?

Michael: We moved to Toronto from Montreal, and Annie had never lived here. When we fell in love, we were housesitting in a gorgeous and sprawling apartment close to the Lachine Canal. So, when we decided (almost six years ago) to move to Toronto, the pressure to find a place that could rival the beauty and romance of our Montreal rendezvous was on! I had lived in Toronto in my 20s, but was determined the avoid both the geography (Bloor West Village) and fate (a break-up) of that time in my life.

Annie: We both love the feeling of being on Parkdalian and Roncesvallian land. The broad, leafy trees; the plentiful coffee shops; the proximity to the lake and High Park; it’s like a small town without the claustrophobia. And the houses! Six years later, we still love walking up and down these streets.

What is your favorite moment/object in your home?

Michael: Two of them – and there are many – are gifts from Annie. They are framed hand-screened prints, made using coffee grounds, by local artist Annie Morrision. They are above one another – the top one says: “Wake Up”, the other: “I love you”. It’s the first time I’ve seen art that serves as both an inspiration and a reminder!

Annie: Moments: morning scones in the playroom, and wine and candlelight in the living room after our kids have gone to bed.

Object: the painting in our dining room, which is the work of our dear friend Michelle Shook.

Where did you come up with the name for your company?

David Hayes designed our logo, which we adore.

What influences you? Where do you get your inspiration from?

Annie: I am such a fan of vintage everything, and (except where people are concerned) I have always had a weakness for a crumbling wreck. I also have a stupendously talented husband, and he inspires me pretty much every single day.

Michael: Inspiration for me all starts with my family. Writing songs, playing music, and teaching are all pursuits that often happen away from home. The longing and the love I have for our home and being in it informs, quite literally, virtually every creative avenue I explore and work in.

Where is your favorite place to visit?

Michael: For awhile, I would have said the photo booth in the lobby of the Drake.

The upper floor of Balzac’s in the Distillery is always a happy destination for our family. On our too infrequent visits, there has almost never been anyone sitting there, so our kids have free reign over the space. For us, it’s unhurried hot drinks, grown-up conversation, great photo ops, all in a space that thrills, aesthetically, in all the right ways.

Annie: In the winter, my parents’ place in Todos Santos, a beautiful town in southern Baja, Mexico.

What are you reading at the moment?

Annie: The summer fiction issue of the New Yorker.

Michael: Reading is a day’s-end activity for me, and with such a limited window of time, I get through maybe a handful of books in a year. Annie recently bought me “This Made Me Laugh: My Favorite Pieces Of Humor And Some That May Not Be Funny At All ” – a collection of short stories edited by Judd Apatow, and I’ve really loved most of them.

Any links, acknowledgements?

First and foremost, my mom (where would I be…?)

My friend Catherine, who owns Mrs. Huizenga . She was one of the first people I met in the city and our acquaintance was the beginning of how I came to feel so at home in this neighbourhood. Catherine has a great eye and, happily for me, we share a similar aesthetic; I could point you to a handful of things in nearly every room of our house that were found in her treasure trove of a store.

Also, our music studio, where my fantastic husband and several wonderful like-minded people teach music lessons to students of every age.

And, carrying on in the vein of shameless self-promotion, my woefully out-of date blog: Annie Dishes

Thanks again Annie & Michael for having us over and for being such a part of our neighborhood!

All photos by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book. 

Filed under giveaways, hello! neighbor

the friday files


I have the best blog readers! It has been such a pleasure this week reading all the thoughtful comments you have left for Alanna. It was so nice to hear from so many of you. I get the feeling that many of you stop by here every now and then but rarely leave comments which is absolutely fine but it is good to hear your voices! Don’t forget you still have this weekend to enter the giveaway.

If you follow me on facebook or twitter than you probably already know that I did a little piece for House & Home’s online TV this week. They came by about 6 weeks and filmed me talking about my house. I’ll admit it was pretty nerve-wracking. I’ve never done anything like that before. I think my saving grace was that I was talking about the one thing I know best in the world – my own house!

In other news, a new exhibition at the AGO, Songs of the Future: Canadian Industrial Photographs, 1858 to Today opened this week. I designed the show and was pleased to see a review by BlogTO with lots of beautiful images of the exhibit. The curator, Sophie Hackett and I spent a long time choosing the wall colours and we’re both really happy with the results. I believe we went through about 12-14 different shades of black before we found the right ones. Photography is one of the harder mediums to select wall colours for since its tonal range is so specific.

On Monday, I’ll be back here with a brand new Hello! Neighbor post and the winner of the Alanna Cavanagh print. Have a great weekend! Enjoy these photos from New York photographer Lesley Unruh.

Image credits:
Lesley Unruh


Filed under the friday files

52 objects – no.34


Lets get right to it.

Object number thirty-four…

Filed under fifty-two objects