22 December 2011

linguine al nero di seppia

We ate pasta every night for two weeks when we visited Italy. Never got tired of it. Spaghetti in Italy is so unlike what we were brought up to believe this dish is. Never once did we have a heavy tomato sauce with meatballs. Instead, we found pasta in Italy to light, simple and creative—always skilfully prepared with only fresh ingredients and wonderfully delicious olive oil.

One of our favorite discoveries was Linguine al Nero di Seppia, pasta prepared from squid ink. As many variations of this exist as there are cities in Italy. We ate it in Rome, Tuscany and Venice, and each time proved to be interestingly different and delicious in it's own way.

A few weeks ago, I made a version using black caviar as a key ingredient. We were craving for it again, so I got everything together to make it last night. Everything except the caviar. Fuelled by hunger and tenacity, I went to 4 grocery stores after work in search of a simple jar lumpfish caviar. There was none to be found. I'll admit that caviar may not be on everyone's shopping list, but in Chicago I could readily find it in any supermarket. Not here. I guess Canadians don't eat fish eggs.

What follows is variation I made up on the fly since caviar was unavailable. Next time I'm in the states, I guess I'll have to load up on lumpfish to make my other recipe.

4 tablespoons butter
6-8 small squid
12 white mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoon lemon juice
8 ounces black squid ink pasta
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp Zatarain's Big & Zesty Garlic & Herb Creole Seasoning
chopped Italian parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in large skillet melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms, season with Zatarain's Big & Zesty Garlic & Herb Creole Seasoning. Remove from pan. Add another tbsp butter and squid, season with lemon pepper. Saute 2 minutes. Remove from skillet.

Melt remaining 1 tbsp butter. Add shallot; cook and stir until tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add sour cream and heavy cream to the shallot mixture and cook until mixture just begins to simmer. Remove from heat. Add mushrooms, squid and accumulated cooking liquor. Add lemon juice.

When water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook. When pasta is al dente, drain, and add to skillet with sauce and toss.

Serve with lemon zest and chopped parsley.

19 December 2011

panko-crusted sablefish with black bean sauce

Part 2 of "When Is A Cod Not A Cod?"

Sablefish are a sleek, black-skinned fish from the cold, deep waters of the North Pacific, harvested on the west coast of Canada. Although commonly called “black cod,” this deep sea fish can live up to 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) below the sea. But it's not cod!

Sablefish is highly prized for an intensely rich, buttery flavour – hence the nickname “butterfish” – and for its fatty, delicate texture. It is considered a delicacy in many countries, and is somewhat similar to Chilean sea bass.

We're lucky to live near a historic fishing village where you can regularly buy fresh catch right off the boats. We often buy whole sablefish there. For this meal, I bypassed the boats and picked up some fillets at a trendy (and much more expensive) boutique fish monger in the city.

3 Sablefish fillets
Wheat flour
Panko breadcrumbs
Old Bay seasoning
1 Egg
3 Tsp Milk
Peanut oil

Black bean sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp. prepared Chinese black bean sauce or black bean garlic
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-size piece ginger, grated
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 red chili, minced
1 Tbsp. cornflour

Combine ingredients for black bean sauce and mix well. Heat sauce over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Set aside and reheat when serving.

Season sablefish with Old Bay seasoning. Beat egg and combine with milk. Dredge dry fillets in flour. Dip floured filets in egg and milk, then dredge in panko.

Heat peanut oil and add fish one at a time to pan, sautéing 2-3 minutes per side (or until lightly browned). Remove from heat and place on aluminum foil covered baking sheet. Place in oven to keep warm.

Prepare vegetable and side dish. For this meal, I stir fried Brussels sprouts in peanut oil with a few splashes of soy sauce and lemon juice. Served on brown rice.

15 December 2011

seared lingcod with meyer lemon italian pico de gallo

Part 1 of “When Is A Cod Not A Cod?”

Lingcod are unique to the west coast of North America, with the center of abundance off the coast of British Columbia. They are found on the bottom of the Oceanside areas, occupying rocky areas at depths of 10 to 100 m (32 to 328 feet). Though not roasted acorn squash with chile vinaigretterelated to ling or cod, the name lingcod originated because it somewhat resembles those fish. But it's not cod!

Lingcod are voracious predators, feeding on nearly anything they can fit in their mouths including invertebrates and many species of fish, such as herring and salmon. One of their favorite foods are small octopus. They look positively prehistoric, don't they?

Having just returned from visiting my friend Tom in Florida, I brought back a suitcase full of homegrown meyer lemons picked from a tree in his back yard. They are juicy and much less acidic than regular lemons, with a slight hint of mandarin orange. A simple, thrown together pico de gallo works well with the mild flavor of lingcod, accentuating its melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Lingcod fillets
Olive oil
Mojo Mama Caribbean citrus seasoning

Italian Pico de gallo:
Chopped campari tomatoes
Chopped red onions
Meyer lemon juice
Chopped parsley
Olive oil

Season fillets with coarse salt, pepper, herbs or other flavors you enjoy. I used a Dry Mojo seasoning made by a company called Mojo Mama. This may only be available in Florida. Combine pico de gallo ingredients according to taste.

Melt butter and olive oil. Sauté fish about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from heat, plate and top with pico de gallo. Served here with wild rice and roasted acorn squash in chile vinaigrette.

23 November 2011

roasted acorn squash with chile vinaigrette

One of the benefits of being a displaced American living in Canada is that I don’t have to go through the drudgery of Thanksgiving. True, Canadians observe Thanksgiving Day too – though they bumped the date to the second Monday in October, coinciding with U.S. Columbus Day. But being someone who claims allegiance to neither country, I feel happy to not take part in this loathsome holiday.

Aside from having to get together with family, the most mundane aspect of Thanksgiving is the food. Turkey just sucks. It’s generally tasteless and offers little in the way of creative inspiration. The abomination known as “turducken” is evidence of what happens when someone tries to come up with a non-traditional way to eat turkey. Turducken is a prime example of how to magnify the tastelessness of turkey by extending that quality to duck and chicken as well.

The other thing is, Thanksgiving go-withs are just as bad as the main attraction. Stuffing? Who wants to eat soaked, mushy bread bits? Green bean casserole? Why add the disgusting mass of mushroom soup to an otherwise delicious vegetable? Canned cranberry sauce served in slices? Do the can’s indentation ridges add to the appeal of this? If so, why is that nobody ever touches this monstrosity?

If for some reason you are forced to attend a Thanksgiving function, suggest to your hosts that you bring a side dish. I guarantee that if you make this squash recipe, you’ll at least enjoy one of the foods offered at your holiday meal. If you’re lucky, everyone else will be too scared to try it and you’ll have it all to yourself!

2 (1 1/2 - to 1 3/4-lb) acorn squash
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot red chile, including seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450F. Halve squash lengthwise, then cut off and discard stem ends. Scoop out seeds and cut squash lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide wedges. Toss squash with black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a bowl, then arrange, cut sides down, in 2 large shallow baking pans. Roast squash, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until squash is tender and undersides of wedges are golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes.

While squash roasts, mince garlic and mash to a paste with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer paste to a small bowl and whisk in lime juice, chile (to taste), cilantro, and remaining 1/4 cup oil until combined. Transfer squash, browned sides up, to a platter and drizzle with vinaigrette. Can also serve squash cut into cubes, lightly tossed.

PS. This vinaigrette is incredibly simple to make and is great on other things. Try it on avocado or salad. Don't be scared off by the red pepper; the sauce isn't overly hot. In fact, I sometimes add some Sriracha to kick it up!

07 November 2011

crab mushroom quiche

One of my mother’s standout Sunday or special holiday breakfast dishes was what she called “Quiche Lorraine.” She probably read the name in some trashy romance novel, wherein the heroine is served breakfast in bed in a Paris hotel after spending the night with a handsome, mysterious guy she met less than 24 hours before.

Although my mom did read some of what would be considered proper, fine literature, her real thrill was reading cheap paperbacks in the Danielle Steel genre. She was usually reading at least 4 books concurrently. Her library was stashed in the bathroom cupboard, behind the spare toilet paper.

My mother’s version of quiche was actually a crust-less, mostly all egg concoction that included finely chopped ham, green peppers and onions. I grew up thinking that all quiches were made this way. Only in later life did I discover the wide variation of fillings and the more common style of serving a quiche in a pie-like pastry, as either a lunch or dinner menu item.

This recipe makes enough for two full quiches — one to eat tonight, and one to freeze and save for your own special Sunday morning-after.

12 oz (or more) crab meat: I used combination of 9 oz fresh lump crab meat and (1) 6 oz can crab meat
5 large eggs
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 leek
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill (or use dried dill)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon (or more) Old Bay seafood seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 oz (1 cup) coarsely grated cheese: “Tex Mex” blend, or Monterey Jack/Swiss blend cheese
2 pre-baked deep dish pie shells (buy frozen, then thaw)

Cut leek’s white portion into small slices. Half the slices then sauté in butter on slow heat until the leeks start to caramelize. Add mushrooms and sauté another few minutes, seasoning with favorite herb mixture (Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning or herbes de provence). Allow to cool.

Whisk together eggs, cream, herbs, seafood seasoning, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then stir in cheeses and crabmeat. Add in leek and mushroom mixture.

Pour into prebaked pie shells and bake until filling puffs and is no longer wobbly in center when quiche is gently shaken, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool in pie plate on rack 15 minutes.

Serve with simple salad of baby greens in French vinaigrette. For an even more authentic French meal, serve with a few cornichons — tiny French gherkins pickles — available at Trader Joe's.

27 October 2011

butternut squash ravioli in sage brown butter sauce

It's true that just about every culture has some sort of stuffed pasta or dumpling -- wonton, pierogi, kreplach, and the grandaddy of them all, ravioli. Ravioli are probably the most versatile and most creatively modified of them all.

With fall upon us, squash is plentiful and fitting for the season. If I had the time and patience, I'd make ravioli by hand. But I have neither, so I cheat and make this quick, elegantly simple week night dinner. The richness of butter and subtlety of sage is a perfect complement to the sweet, complex flavor of butternut squash.

1 package Trader Joe's butternut squash filled triangoli
1/2 stick unsalted butter
12 sage leaves
2 tbsp minced shallots
1 tbsp lemon juice
toasted pine nuts

Toast pine nuts and set aside. Melt butter until beginning to brown. Add sage leaves and fry on medium to medium-high heat for 3 minutes or until butter froth subsides. Remove leaves with slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Lightly salt the sage leaves. Add shallots to butter; saute about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Meanwhile, add ravioli to boiling water. Be careful to not overcook ravioli! Drain and add ravioli to butter. Crumble sage leaves and add pine nuts to mixture and serve.

05 October 2011

seared tuna with olive tapenade viniagrette and arugula-stuffed ravioli

Man, Do I ever miss Trader Joe's.

Living as an ex-pat in Canada for the past five years, I've almost become reconciled with the fact that there are a lot of things I gave up in moving from my native country. Yeah, I sometimes still long for the warehouse-sized wine and liquor stores I took for granted while living in Chicago. I miss shopping at CB2, Crate & Barrel Cost Plus World Market, and Target (!). Though not happy to have lost them, I can (mostly) live without.

But Trader Joe's, that's a different story.

Culturally deprived in the great white north, I've made semi-regular forays across the border to stock our cupboards with necessary provisions. I can't seem to get out of Trader Joe's these days for anything less than $200. And it amazes me even more that there are so many incredible items for so little money.

Take tuna, for example. TJ's sells frozen ahi tuna at a ridiculously low price of $5.00 for two steaks. Up here in Vancouver, ahi is largely unavailable. Even the locally fished albacore is hard to find, and it's just not as good anyway.

Since we stopped off to fill up at TJ's on the way back from a weekend in Seattle, the first thing I made when we were back home was a dinner sourced from some of my latest finds.

1/4 cup Trader Joe's mixed-olive tapenade
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
2 6-ounce ahi tuna steaks (each about 3/4 to 1 inch thick; available frozen from Trader Joe's)
2 cups (packed) baby arugula
Classico sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce
Trader Joe's Arugula & Parmigiano Reggiano Ravioli
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 red pepper, chopped
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Mix tapenade, onion, basil, 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and lemon peel in medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle tuna with salt and pepper. Heat butter and olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tuna to same skillet; cook 2 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Divide arugula among 2 plates. Cut tuna into slices; arrange atop arugula. Spoon tapenade vinaigrette over tuna.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta sauce. First saute garlic in olive, adding chopped red peppers. Add using Classico sun-dried tomato alfredo and pasta water. Cook ravioli in boiling water until they float to top of water; drain and add to pasta sauce. Serve and sprinkle chopped parsley on top.

08 September 2011

lemon sorbet with wild blackberries

I’ll admit it – I dislike Rachel Ray.

And apparently I’m not alone.

Known for her simplistic “30 Minute Meals” Food Network program and countless cookbooks, her recipes are often so basic that they hardly qualify as recipes.

Take her recipe for lemon sorbet which appears on Food Network’s website. The primary ingredient for this recipe? Store-bought lemon sorbet from the freezer. Yep, that’s it. You make lemon sorbet by buying it from the grocery store. Then add a few fresh berries, and voila!

Others who are as equally fond of Rachel Ray as I am have taken to deriding her by adding fake reviews to many of her recipes, thus making a public mockery of the star in her very own venue. Her recipe for “late night bacon” is a classic in the art of web comments graffitting.

From the comments section of Rachel’s lemon sorbet recipe:

“Ingredients: lemon sorbet -- Genius! I substituted chocolate ice cream for the sorbet, fudge sauce for the berries and a sugar cone for the bowl. So simple and DEEEEElish! Another winner Rach! Keep em coming!”

“I only have lemon ice cream. If I put some crushed ice from the fridge door in it, does that make it sorbet? I don't have berries. Does anyone know if I can use vegetables instead? Is it ok to sub black beans for black berries?”

“I'm not a fan of this recipe... it is far too complicated for me. You see... I live 150 miles away from the nearest grocery store, but I have lemons growing in my backyard in California. Is there a way that I can take those lemons and make them into sorbet? Could I just juice them and put them in the freezer? PLEASE HELP!”

“Where am i gonna get lemon sorbet for my lemon sorbet? Durrrr.....”
“Great thanks a lot Rachel ray I Got my lemon sorbet and fruit and mixed it together and then my mom died of cancer.”

Not to be seen as a hypocrite, I freely admit that my recipe for lemon sorbet with wild blackberries uses store-bought sorbet too. But then, I'm not professing to be a celebrity chef, either. At least I picked the blackberries and grew the basil for this version though.

Lemon sorbet
Fresh blackberries
Fresh basil

Spoon blackberries into bowl, top with lemon sorbet and cut basil.

07 August 2011

spaghetti alla puttanesca

When in Rome on holiday, we found an incredible little restaurant that was so great that we ate there three nights. Though the restaurant is very small, l'Archetto has over 100 spaghetti selections on their menu. I should know -- I stole a copy of the menu and now proudly have it as a souvenir and recipe guide.

"Spaghetti alla puttanesca" translates in Italian as "whore's style spaghetti." With a name like that, it has to be good, right?

Some say that it was a sauce created by a restaurant owner who had many guests come to his restaurant to eat late one night as he was about to close. He didn't have enough of any one ingredient to make a meal for them all so he took everything out of his kitchen and put it together to make this sauce. Normally his recipes were exact and strictly followed; in this case though, he "whored" his profession to make some last minute sales to the hungry guests.

Others believe that the sauce originated among those in trade, so to speak. The puttanas invented this quick and easy pasta sauce to make in between customers.

Still others contend that the sauce originated as the "decent" women threw their leftovers from balconies as the puttanas walked the streets below them.

1/4 cup olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
3 tsp arrabbiata seasoning
15 pitted kalamata olives, quartered (Napa Valley Bistro brand)
2 tsp peperoncino
5 tsp capers
1 80 gram jar of anchovies
5 campari tomatoes, quartered or cut in sixths
2-3 tsp lemon juice
8 oz spaghetti
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté very low until fragrant.

Add olives, capers, arrabbiata seasoning, and pereoncino. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat. Add anchovies and lemon juice. Add tomatoes and turn off heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta; return to same pot. Add sauce and parsley. Toss over low heat until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve with cheese.

10 April 2011

date, nut and spinach pasta

A package of dried dates has been hibernating in our refrigerator for several months.The sticky mixture are tasty enough, but they probably remain untouched just because there is too much work involved in pulling them apart to eat.With spring now here, it seems like a good time to bring the dates out of deep sleep. This recipe delights the senses with a savory interplay of sweetness, nuttiness, and pungent earthiness.

10 cups spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled (sun-dried tomato & basil seasoning added)
1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/3 cup olivie oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 lb fettuccine
salt &  black pepper

For the breadcrumbs:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

3 Spinach, fontina & roasted garlic chicken sausages, sliced (Trader Joe's)

Toast walnuts by heating in oil-free skillet until browned. Next, prepare the garlic breadcrumbs: Heat oil over medium heat and cook garlic slices for 30 seconds, then remove. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring until browned.

If adding the sausage, saute slices in olive oil until browned. When cooled, add to spinach mixture below.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, feta, dates and walnuts; set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together oil and lemon juice. Drizzle over spinach mix and toss to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Add the spinach mixture to pasta and toss to combine well. Plate pasta and sprinkle each plate with the toasted breadcrumbs.

Serve with mushroom “soufflettes” (M&M Meat Shop).

22 March 2011

I hate chili

I'm not a big fan of chili.

Maybe it's the gastro-elitist in me, but chili just seems so...well... ummm.... common.

To me, chili is something that non-selective eaters too often just scoop from a can and toss in the microwave. Kaboom -- there you have it -- dinner. Last night frozen pizza, tomorrow night Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Now, I'll grant you that there is some damn good chili to be had out there. My friend Tom used to make an incredible lamb chili that was as savory as it was spicy.

Faced with a big hunk of leftover Chinese pot roast that threatened to go past its safe-eating expiration, I decided to whip up some impromptu chili of my own. Nothing approaching the complexity of Tom's recipe, this was more of an effort to use what was on hand or readily available for a quick week night meal.

recycled Chinese pot roast (or any similar beef roast)
ground pork
2 cans chili-style pinto and red kidney beans (Heinz brand)
1 large can seasoned tomatoes (Italian style with herbs and celery)
1/2 jar corn salsa (Trader Joe's)
salt & pepper
hot sauce (Cholula)
shredded cheese (tex-mex mixture)
sour cream
tortilla chips (crumbled)

Saute ground pork with garlic. Combine in large pan with beef, beans, tomatoes and corn. Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce, and anything else you can think of.  When ready to serve, top with crumbled tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream and cilantro.

18 March 2011

guinness corned beef

Although my mother proudly proclaimed her Irish heritage, I can't remember her ever actually cooking corned beef and cabbage.

Not sure why, but I'm guessing it's because my father objected to strong smells emanating from the kitchen. It wouldn't matter if the temperature was below zero, he'd rush like a madman to open all the windows in the house and turn on a powerful hall fan at the slightest hint of cooking odor.

Maybe that's why I follow a personal tradition of always cooking corned beef on St. Patrick's Day. That and the fact that I really love it. A good brisket is difficult to find most of the time in Canada, so St. Patrick's Day is a welcome opportunity to find one in the grocery.

1 pre-packaged, seasoned corned beef brisket
1 can Guinness draft-style beer
Dijon-style course-ground mustard
pearl onions
baby carrot
yellow potatoes
prepared sauerkraut
herbes de Provence
lavender salt

My recipe is dead simple. Dump the brisket in the slow cooker, fat side up. Spread mustard on the top. Empty a can of Guinness into the pot, covering them meat about halfway. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Cut potatoes into irregular chunks and add to slow cooker. Continue cooking on low setting 2 more hours.

Prepare pearl onions by first immersing them in boiling water for three minutes, then rinsing under cold water. Cut root end of onion and squeeze to remove the outer skin. Sauté carrots and onions in olive oil and butter at low-medium heat, carmelizing them. Season with herbes de Provence and lavender salt.

Heat sauerkraut and simmer about 20 minutes. Discard liquid and season with lots of butter and pepper.

Remove brisket from slow cooker, allowing meat to stand for 5 minutes before cutting. Toss potatoes in butter and dill.

11 March 2011

Chinese Pot Roast

Pot roast is the epitome of comfort food. This recipe is just like your mom used to make... if your mom happened to be Chinese.

Until just a few weeks ago, this was the only thing I ever cooked in the slow cooker my mom gave me. Writing about that fact when I made slow cooker tuscan beef stew reminded me to make this one again.

I originally cut out a non-crockpot version of this recipe from the Chicago Tribune about 20 years ago. I still have the clipping, worn with age and finally transcribed here. I adapted it for slow cooker.

1 chuck beef roast, 3-4 lbs
2 tsp black pepper
3-4 tbsp peanut oil
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
3 celery rib, sliced
4 cloves garlic
4 tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 3/4 cup red wine, water, or stock
2 tbsp thyme
2 bay leaves

Add later:
cubed potatoes
cubed daikon radish
baby carrots


Rub roast with pepper. Heat oil in heavy pan large enough to hold meat. Brown meat well on all sides over medium high heat for about 12-15 minutes. Remove meat from pan.

Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic and ginger. Cook over medium heat until browned, soft and fragrant. Add 1/2 cup liquid to pot and scrape bottom well to loosen any browned bits. Transfer contents to slow cooker crockpot.

Add thyme and bay leaves. Add meat and remaining liquid to pot. The liquid should come about a third to halfway up the meat. Cook on low temperature The more gently the meat cooks, the more moist it will be. Turn meat about every hour. Cook about 6 hours.

At about 4 hours cooking time, add potatoes, radish and baby carrots.

Serve with jasmine rice and a green Asian vegetable. In this version, I used pea pods quickly sautéed with sliced green onion, lemon zest, and Maggi seasoned soy sauce. Also served this with Trader Joe's corn relish.

09 March 2011

deep fried trout with tarako spaghetti

Rainbow trout, salmon's smaller cousin, seem more popular as targets for fly fishers than objects of culinary adventure. I've never quite understood why trout are so reasonably priced, almost downright cheap, if you are lucky enough to find them fresh and available in stores. Maybe people are put off by their small size or the many, fine bones inside. Yet trout are easy to cook and fillet. The delicate, nutty taste of trout is best when the fish is prepared in the simplest way possible.

whole rainbow trout
spaghetti noodles
S&B (Japanese) spicy cod roe spaghetti sauce
brocoli crowns
Kewpie (Japanese) mayonnaise
Old Bay seasoning
grape seed oil
lemon pepper salt

Ponzu dipping sauce:
shōyu (Japanese soy sauce)
Japanese sushi rice vinegar
lime juice
finely chopped green onions
Cape Herb & Spice Co. Heat Wave seasoning

Clean and pat dry trout. Dredge in mixture of flour and Old Bay seasoning. Deep fry at 325 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, boil spaghetti noodles. Drain and toss lightly with grape seed oil, then toss with cod roe sauce. Spinkle nori on top.

Cook broccoli crowns in microwave in a covered container for about 3-4 minutes. Season with lemon pepper salt. Drizzle with mayonnaise.

Serve with ponzu dipping sauce.

24 February 2011

sockeye salmon chowder

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

2010 saw the largest spawning of sockeye salmon in over a century in B.C. Over 35 million of them did the deed.

This came after a disastrous 2009 when only 1 million sockeye spawned. Things were so bad that year that the government held a judicial inquiry into the decimation of sockeye salmon stocks in British Columbia, gravely warning that they were soon to become extinct.

We had our fair share of fresh sockeye last season, served in as many ways possible. Fish were so plentiful that we bought them right off the boat, less than half a mile away from home.

A friend gave us some home-canned salmon from the local catch. With the weather now cold, a hot chowder was a good way to relive memories of summer.

For the fish broth:
2 sockeye salmon heads
1 celery stalk cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 carrot cut into 1-2 inch pieces
3 green onions
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fish sauce
½ cup white wine

For chowder:
6 cups fish broth
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 red-skinned potatoes (unpeeled), cubed
2 cups canned or frozen corn kernels
1 onion, finely diced
3 large celery stalk, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
6 tsp. (or more to taste) fresh dill
Lemon zest and juice from one whole lemon
1 lb. (500 g) canned sockeye salmon, crumbled in large pieces
1-2 cups frozen langostina (Trader Joe’s)
2 cup light cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Old Bay seasoning to taste
Everyday Seasoning and lemon pepper to taste (both Trader Joe’s)
Sugar (not sure how much… just a little bit, to taste)
Dried crispy crumbled seaweed

Place broth and flour in slow cooker. Whisk until flour is completely dissolved. Mix in potatoes, corn, onion, celery, garlic, wine and some of the dill. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until vegetables are tender. Transfer soup to stove. Mix in salmon, cream, lemon juice and zest. Add seasonings and more dill to taste. Cover and cook for an hour. Sprinkle servings with crumbled seaweed. Serve with sourdough bread and butter.

20 February 2011


Little dib-dabs of almost-finished sauces and condiments drive me crazy.

I hate to be wasteful and just throw these remnants out, but usually what's left in the jar is too little to really use in creating a regular meal.

Faced with the challenge of what to make for Sunday breakfast, I set out to use up all that I could of what we already had in the refrigerator. Though I'd bought a loaf of Italian bread a few days ago in anticipation of making paninis on the weekend, I really had no idea how it would all come together until I raided the fridge in search of things to use.

jalapeno cheese rustica bread (from Safeway)
Mixed grilled vegetable bruschetta (from Trader Joe's)
BBQ hot & spicy thin sliced chicken breast (from Safeway)
slice of swiss-stlye havarti cheese
sliced roma tomatoes
red leaf lettuce
Italian herb cheese spread (from Hickory Farms)
sun-dried tomato pesto (Classico brand)
pickled pepperoncini

Butter outside of all bread slices. Assemble bottom sandwich ingredients in order listed above (bruschetta, chicken, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce). Spread inner top slice of bread with cheese spread and pesto. Put sandwich on panini press and cook till bread becomes toasty. Serve with remaining tomato slices and pickled pepperoncini.

16 February 2011

slow cooker tuscan beef stew

I'm not much of a slow cooker kind of guy.

A gift from my mom, my slow cooker sits in the back of a cabinet and gets used only once a year at best. In fact, there's only ever been one recipe that I've made in it—a delicious Asian-inspired pot roast. As tasty as that is, I still rarely make it.

Going through my freezer I found a bag of stew meat that was approaching the “use it or lose it” deadline. Inspired by watching travel videos for our upcoming vacation in Italy, I decided to quickly throw together a Tuscan Beef Stew.

I prepped everything on my lunch break from work, so there was less than a half hour involved in the get-ready. The end result was a quick, easy weeknight meal that warmed a typical rainy Vancouver winter day. Served with a crusty garlic bread and a small side salad of pickled artichoke hearts, this stew would be good on a bed of polenta or orzo.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 yellow onion, cut into thin slices
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3-4 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 yellow turnip, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pounds stew beef, such as boneless chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup dry, full bodied red wine
1 1/2 tbsp dried thyme (would be better with fresh but didn't have any!)
1 1/2 tbsp dried basil
2 bay leaves
1 can Italian stewed tomatoes
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat heavy pan on stove and add olive oil until hot but not smoking. Sauté beef until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove beef from pan and add garlic, onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add beef back to pan. Add turnips. Add wine and herbs, stir well, and bring to boil. Transfer to slow cooker. Add tomatoes and some of juice from the can, salt, and pepper, then lower heat to moderately low, cover, and simmer for 4 - 6 hours.

11 February 2011

pan-seared tuna with ginger-shiitake cream sauce

Long before the proliferation of sushi bars, tuna was mostly known as a cheap, canned fish ingredient for salad served between sandwich slices.

I remember the first time I really appreciated tuna in its own right. I was invited to a private party hosted by a seafood restaurateur to showcase his new menu. He proudly offered his guests small cubes of what he told us was steak. Perfectly seared on the outside, the red meat glistened as it was served rare.

I bit into a piece, fully expecting beef. My taste buds jolted, unable to compute—they sent messages to the brain that they detected a strange, here-to-fore unknown kind of richness.

Our host smiled and raised an eyebrow, then broke out in a mischievous laugh. I had been fooled—delightfully so!

Ahi (or yellowfin) is the traditional pinkish-red tuna, most often seen served as sashimi or sushi everywhere other than Vancouver. It’s fattier and heartier than albacore, the variety that is generally fished in this part of the world.

Ahi is hard to find locally, since it is non-native. Though a poor substitute for fresh, I stock up on frozen yellowfin whenever I make a trek south-of-the-border to Trader Joe’s. Though fresh is best in this recipe, frozen makes a suitable substitute for a weeknight meal.

2 6-ounce tuna steaks, each about 1 inch thick
1 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 200°F. Sprinkle 1 side of tuna steaks with pepper. Heat 1 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Place tuna steaks, pepper side down, in hot oil and sear 2 minutes. Turn tuna over and continue cooking to desired doneness, about 2 minutes for rare. Transfer tuna to rimmed baking sheet; keep warm in oven.

Add butter, sliced green onions, cilantro, ginger and chopped garlic to same skillet and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in mushrooms and soy sauce and simmer 30 seconds. Add whipping cream and simmer until sauce lightly coats back of spoon, about 3 minutes. Stir in lime juice.

Prepare garlic mashed potatoes and add to plate. Arrange tuna atop potatoes, spooning sauce over. Serve with steamed baby bok choy in topped with oyster sauce.