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.