A Few of My Favourite (Canadian) Things…

2 07 2010

Maple syrup in a maple leaf bottle

A belated Happy Canada Day to all of my Canadian readers!  I must admit that I started to write this yesterday (Canada Day) and got distracted by various holiday celebrations, including a great fireworks display over Lake Ontario.

Canada Day is the one day of the year when we pull out our flags to celebrate our country and all the things that make it great (or just enjoy a day off in the middle of the week).  Canada is easy to stereotype but there’s a lot more going on here than hockey, moose, Celine Dion and beer (although there’s plenty of those too).  The culinary scene in Canada has never been so diverse and interesting and I’m constantly finding inspiration from local chefs, farmers, producers and writers.  Here are a few of my favourite Canadian food-related things:

Canadian Wines

A selection of Ontario wines

People outside of Canada might not even be aware that we have a number of wine producing regions that are growing rapidly. British Columbia and Ontario lead the way with dozens of wineries, ranging from small family-run producers to larger, corporate-owned vineyards.  Canadian icewines have won international awards and we also produce some top-notch whites including riesling (a favourite of mine in the summer).  To learn more about the largest wine regions of Canada, visit www.winebc.com and www.winesofontario.com

Unique Dishes

A take-out container of poutine

Every nation has dishes that are considered specialties of that country.  Because Canada is so spread out and diverse, a number of iconic dishes can be found across the country including poutine (french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy), donairs (spiced meat wrapped in a pita and topped with a sweet garlic sauce), smoked meat, Bloody Caesars, butter tarts, and Nanaimo bars.  A recent Globe and Mail feature asked what we thought our national dish might be: My National Dish (click through the slide show of Contenders at the bottom).  I’d rather not choose one – I like them all!

Great Products

Atlantic lobsters are served in restaurants around the world

Despite a relatively short growing season, Canada has great produce.  During the peak summer months, farmer’s markets are full of locally grown fruits and vegetables that range from the familiar to more exotic fare such as bitter melon and rapini.  We also have some of the world’s best seafood, fished from both the east and west coasts.  Prince Edward Island oysters, B.C. smoked salmon and Atlantic lobster are served at fine restaurants around the world.  Maple syrup is another famous Canadian export that is readily available at any grocery store across the country. Canadian artisan cheese makers are beginning to make their presence felt in the world with a Quebec produced goat cheese, Le Cendrillon, winning the title of Best Cheese in the World at the 2009 World Cheese awards.  Many provinces are now producing interesting and unique cheeses from goat, sheep and cow’s milk.

Another Canadian product I’ve been experimenting with over the past few months is duck. Brome Lake in Quebec’s Eastern Townships is famous for its ducks and many products are now easier to find in stores outside of the province.  I’ve been testing recipes using confit legs, smoked breasts and duck foie gras I’ve purchased at the St. Lawrence Market and A Taste of Quebec in Toronto.  There is even a store dedicated to duck products on Boulevard St-Laurent in Montreal called  Le Canard Libéré.

For some delicious recipes using Canadian products, check out some of these recipes:

Home Grown Talent

Some of Canada’s food personalities have recently gained more recognition abroad with the launch of the Cooking Channel in the United States.  Although their programs have been airing on Food Network Canada for a while, TV chefs such as Chuck Hughes (Chuck’s Day Off), David Rocco (Dolce Vita), Laura Calder (French Food at Home) and Roger Mooking (Everyday Exotic) will gain a much wider audience in the U.S.  Laura Calder also recently won a James Beard Foundation Award for her program, beating out popular nominees The Barefoot Contessa and Iron Chef America.  Other prolific Canadian food personalities include Lucy Waverman, celebrity chef Lynn Crawford, who recently launched a new tv show and a restaurant, and Michael Smith, who competed on Iron Chef America and cooked for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Local Restaurants

The Au Pied de Cochon cookbook

The restaurant scene in Canada has never been so exciting.  Many of the country’s top chefs are championing the use of local products and creating dishes that are uniquely and distinctly Canadian.  Chef Martin Picard of Montreal’s temple of decadence, Au Pied du Cochon, uses local products to fuel his over-the-top cuisine. The menu features such madness as poutine topped with foie gras, cromesquis (fried cubes of foie gras that explode and melt in your mouth) and towers of Canadian seafood in the summer.  The last time I was there, I watched the chefs plate an entire pig’s head that had been cooked in their wood-burning oven.  Toronto’s Black Hoof restaurant is curing their own meats for charcuterie plates while Vancouver’s C Restaurant is featuring the best of local seafood in artistic presentations.  These are just a few examples – there are many other innovative Canadian restaurants from coast to coast who are shaping the culinary direction of our nation.

Diversity

Le Petit Alep, a Syrian/Armenian restaurant in Montreal

One of the great things about living in Canada in general is the great cultural diversity of our people.  In major cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, you can sample the cuisines from dozens of nations – the world is your oyster, so to speak. You can have dim sum for lunch, sushi for dinner and Lebanese sandwiches as a midnight snack, if you so choose.  Many restauranteurs are using local ingredients in the preparation of ‘ethnic’ dishes (such as Vij’s in Vancouver), creating local/global hybrid dishes that are unique and interesting. As our population continues to grow, the fusion of various influences will only make eating ‘Canadian’ food more exciting.

Bon Appétit and Happy Canada Day!





Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

3 04 2010

 

A bouquet of tulips is a simple way to dress up your Easter table.

 

This weekend is Easter and it’s a great opportunity to gather with family and friends for a meal.  While many will be enjoying an Easter dinner of ham, potatoes or lamb, I think brunch is a fun meal for entertaining.  Why not make a spring-inspired menu and invite your friends over for a casual morning of mimosas and delicious food?

Fresh locally grown blueberries won’t be available for a couple of months in most areas but frozen ones work perfectly for the sauce.  No need to defrost them – just put them in a pot with a little bit of water and they will cook down in no time.  Of course the pancakes are also great topped with maple syrup as well.  These pancakes are not the thin ‘flap jack’ kind – they puff up and are are quite substantial.

To round out your Easter brunch if you’re feeding a crowd, I suggest some baked ham with Maple-Dijon Glaze, Crustless Asparagus Quiche and Spicy Breakfast Potatoes

Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

Makes about 8 thick pancakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups milk, as needed
  • 3 Tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower OR melted unsalted butter
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Additional oil for cooking pancakes
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir to combine.
  2. Add egg, 1-1/2 cups milk and 3 Tablespoons oil or melted butter to the dry ingredients. Gently stir until just combined. If the batter is very thick, add a bit more milk (however, it should still be quite thick and not runny).
  3. In a separate glass or stainless steel bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites until they form stiff white peaks. Fold egg whites into pancake batter until just combined.
  4. In a large skillet on medium-high, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Working in batches of 3 or 4, drop large spoonfuls of batter into the skillet. Cook until the bottom of the pancakes are set. Turn over with a spatula and cook until both sides are golden brown and the centre is cooked through (insert a knife in the centre of the pancake to check for doneness). Pancakes can be kept warm in a low oven until all batches are cooked and are ready to serve.
  5. Serve with maple syrup or blueberry sauce (see below).

Blueberry Sauce

Makes about 1-1/2 cups sauce

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. In a large saucepan, combine ingredients. Heat until simmering. Gently mash berries with a potato masher and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes.
  2. Serve sauce with pancakes, waffles or biscuits (it’s also tasty poured over vanilla ice cream!)

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.

Bon Appétit and Happy Easter!

Thick fluffy pancakes topped with blueberry sauce.





A Valentine’s Day Menu

11 02 2010

 

Preparing a juicy roast chicken with crispy skin is a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day

 

This Sunday is Valentine’s Day, a holiday that seems to inspire mixed feelings in people.  Some people feel that it’s just an excuse for card companies, florists and chocolatiers to profit while more romantic folks see it as an opportunity to celebrate their love with a significant other.  Whatever your feelings about Valentine’s Day, I believe that it’s a day you should avoid restaurants if at all possible.  Most places are packed to the rafters and often feature set menus with overwhelmed service. Being rushed to eat mediocre food with bad service is not my idea of romantic!  Why not prepare a nice dinner at home instead?  It doesn’t need to be difficult and a nice home cooked meal is always the way to someone’s heart.  

Here is a suggested menu that is guaranteed to please.  It will yield enough for 4 to 6 people – if you’re making it for two, the leftovers will make a nice meal the next day. The mignonette and tart can be prepared in advance and the chicken can be prepped and refrigerated until ready to roast.

Oysters with Mignonette Sauce

Juicy Herb Roasted Chicken

Mashed Potatoes (cut recipe in half if making dinner for two)

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

Fresh Crusty Bread

Apple Caramel Tart

Champagne, of course (or an inexpensive sparkling wine such as cava or prosecco)

Bon Appétit and Happy Valentine’s Day!





Happy New Year!

30 12 2009

It’s been a busy holiday season this year, with family visits, shopping, traveling, a minor plumbing disaster and of course, eating well.  As the year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the past 365 days and look forward to the year ahead.  I can hardly believe it’s going to be 2010 – it sounds very futuristic!  I wish everyone all the best for 2010 and once the holiday chaos dies down, I will be bringing you many more original recipes, fresh ideas for using seasonal ingredients and reports of great places to eat and drink.

All the Best,

Trish





Potato Latkes

15 12 2009

Tonight is the 5th night of Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration of lights. Potato latkes are traditionally eaten during the eight days of festivities but you certainly don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them.  You can sometimes find them on menus at delis but they’re very easy to make at home. The potatoes and onions can be grated by hand or with a food processor. Latkes are best eaten fresh out of the pan – they don’t really re-heat very well.  Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

Potato Latkes

(VEGETARIAN)

Makes about 8 large latkes

  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • Neutral oil such as safflower, for pan frying latkes
  • Sour cream or apple sauce, to garnish (optional)
  1. Grate potatoes and onion and place in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and let sit for five minutes.  
  2. After five minutes, use your hands to wring any liquid from the shredded potatoes and discard the liquid (you can also do this by pressing the potato mixture in a colander).
  3. Add egg and flour to the potato mixture and use your hands to thoroughly combine the ingredients.
  4. In a large, deep skillet, add oil so that is about 1/4″ to 1/2″ deep in the pan. Heat on high until ready to fry (to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until a small piece of potato dropped in sizzles and turns golden).  Be sure to watch the oil carefully!
  5. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop out some potato mixture.  Carefully place in the oil and flatten slightly with a spatula. Repeat scooping the mixture but make sure the latkes are not crowded in the pan (you will likely have to do two batches).
  6. Let the latkes cook until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.  Carefully turn over with a spatula and cook the other side.  When the pancakes are dark golden and cooked through, remove from the pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate. 
  7. Season with additional salt to taste and serve with sour cream or applesauce, as desired.

Happy Hanukkah and Enjoy!

A Potato Latke topped with sour cream.





Pumpkin Breakfast Treats

24 11 2009

Pumpkin: it's not just for pie!

With pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving menu this week in millions of homes, there will likely be some leftover pumpkin purée. Why not put it to good use by whipping up some delicious breakfast treats for a house full of guests?  Try these delicious recipes I wrote for Suite 101.com:

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Pumpkin Spice Muffins – Pumpkin purée helps keep these muffins nice and moist. Filling the muffin cups almost to the top will make large, puffy bakery-style muffins. The recipe can easily be doubled to serve a crowd.

Pumpkin French Toast - French toast is always popular for breakfast but adding pumpkin and spices makes it even better. It’s also a great way to use up leftover bread. Serve with real maple syrup.

Pumpkin French Toast with maple syrup

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





A Vegetarian and Vegan Thanksgiving

23 11 2009

Fresh cranberries at the farmer's market

American Thanksgiving is this week and it’s the biggest food day of the year for millions of people. Cooks across America have been busy in on-line chat rooms and blogs discussing menus and what recipes they’ll be making for their feasts.  Turkey is usually the centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving meal but what if you or one of your guests don’t eat meat or poultry?  Not to worry – there are plenty of delicious options that everyone can enjoy without feeling like they’re missing out.

Many recipes can also be adapted for vegans (who don’t eat any animal products, including milk, cheese, butter and eggs).  To make a recipe vegan, sometimes all you have to do is substitute margarine or oil for butter and leave out any cheese the recipe may call for.  I have noted which recipes can easily be adapted for vegans. Here are some suggestions for a delicious, meat-free Thanksgiving dinner:

Stuffed Butternut Squash is an elegant vegetarian alternative to turkey.

White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs – Get the party started with this vegan-friendly dip made with white beans and hearty autumn herbs. 

Mushroom Crostini – These make impressive hors d’oeuvres for any autumn dinner. Leave out the cream, parmesan and sour cream if serving vegans.  Adjust the flavour by adding more seasonings to taste.

Butternut Squash Soup – This low-fat soup is easy and delicious.  To adapt for vegans, omit the brown butter – use olive oil to sauté the sage leaves instead.

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup – Using vegetable stock instead of a chicken base makes this easy soup suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.

Stuffed Butternut Squash – This makes an impressive main course dish that easily takes the place of turkey.  Can be adapted for vegans (see pointers in the article).

Potato-Sage Dressing – Cooking the stuffing outside the bird means that everyone can enjoy it, including vegans.

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots – Take a break from the usual green bean casserole with this vegan-friendly dish.

Cranberry Sauce – Just because you don’t have turkey doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some vegan-friendly cranberries with your meal.

Mashed Potatoes – Always a favourite, mashed potatoes can be adapted for vegans by nixing the butter and cream.  Use a little vegetable stock and a bit of olive oil to give them a creamy texture.

Mashed Potatoes are a must at any Thanksgiving table.

Butternut Squash Gratin with Sage and Parmesan – The key to this dish is the butter and parmesan so vegans may have to pass on this one but vegetarians and meat-eaters will no doubt enjoy it.

Corn Scallop – This dish is tasty and rich but unfortunately it’s not vegan-friendly. However, Roasted Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs is – just use olive oil in place of the butter. Fresh corn is not in season right now but canned corn works very well in this dish.

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta – This hearty winter salad is practically a meal on its own.  Leave out the feta for vegans.

Braised Garlic Swiss Chard – Cooking swiss chard in lots of garlic and stock makes eating your greens a lot more delicious.  Use oil in place of the butter for vegans.

Roasted Tomatoes – These sweet and addictive slow cooked tomatoes are great in salads, on pasta or even just eaten with bread. They are vegan-friendly as well. 

Celery Root Slaw – This tangy salad is the perfect accompaniment to rich dishes.  If serving vegans, use a vegan-friendly mayonnaise that doesn’t contain any eggs.

Salads – Mixed greens and other vegetables are a great option for vegetarians, vegans and health-conscious diners.  Recipes for Basic Vinaigrettes will give you  lots of ideas for dressings.

Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline – The pumpkin custard contains eggs and milk so it’s not vegan-friendly but everyone else will enjoy this dressed up version of a classic.

Apple Pie – Another classic.  Be sure to use a pastry recipe (or prepared dough) that doesn’t contain animal products if serving vegans.

Take a break from green bean casserole with vegan-friendly Roasted Green Beans and Shallots.

Many people are eliminating meat and animal products from their diets for both health and ethical reasons but there’s no reason why they can’t enjoy a tasty holiday meal as well.  

Bon Appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!








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