Sea Food

February 8, 2011


Salmon and Kelp

My lovely friend Rosemary is the Chief Development Officer for the BC SPCA. She has an unrestrained, whole-hearted love for all animals and she inspires me. Recently, she has been persuing a vegan lifestyle, a better-for-her way of eating. She told me a few months ago about Organic Lives in Vancouver and recommended that I try their kelp noodles. It took me a while, but I did. And they’re great. Incredibly crisp. Noodles from the sea! They went perfectly with this delicate salmon stew recipe that I lifted from the venerable cannelle et vanille.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 leeks, trimmed and slice, pale green parts only

1 baseball-sized celeriac, trimmed, peeled and diced

1 fennel bulb, diced – save some pretty fennel fronds for garnish if you like

1 cup of vegetable stock

1 tin of coconut milk

12 ounces salmon, skin removed and cut into 1″ cubes

1 package of kelp noodles, rinsed

sea salt

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat and add leeks. Sweat for two minutes and add celeriac, fennel and vegetable stock. Lower heat and simmer until vegetables are just tender. Pour in coconut milk and stir to combine. Add salmon and gently poach until almost cooked through and then add the kelp noodles. Heat, season with sea salt and serve with bits of frilly fennel.


Gem Squash

October 14, 2010


Barley Stuffed Gem


I bought some small gem squash at the market last weekend, not entirely sure what I was going to do with them. Sometimes you can’t predict. I like the dated presentation I went with. It’s corny for sure, but it’s also practical. Especially if you might be having friends for dinner. All the work is done ahead of time and they can roast away while you prepare the rest of dinner. They’ll keep hot and well in a low oven.

Makes 4

4 gem squash, each about the size of a hardball

a tablespoon or two of olive oil

sea salt and pepper, to taste

1 shallot, minced

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

3 brown mushrooms, finely chopped

6 brussels sprouts, halved and shredded

1/2 cup cooked pearl barley

Preheat your oven to 400º. Behead the gem squash. That is, carefully chop off the top quarter – it’s both the size and hardness of a hardball so execute with some care. Scoop out the guts with a soup spoon. I discarded, but by all means sort through the carnage to extract the seeds to roast, if you like. Lightly olive oil inside and out and sprinkle with some sea salt. Put the cap back on and slide into the oven to roast for about half an hour. Meanwhile, heat a medium pan over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Saute the shallots and celery together for two or three minutes and then add the garlic and mushrooms and a pinch of sea salt. Cook down for a few minutes and then stir in the shredded brussels sprouts and barley. Heat through, check for seasoning and add a bit more sea salt and some freshly ground pepper, I made mine pretty peppery. Remove from heat and set aside. Pull the par-cooked and not-so-hard-anymore squash from the oven. Upon removing the lid, small puffs of squash-y steam will huff out. Pack each cavity with the brussels sprouts and barley mix, pop the cap back on and return to the oven for another half an hour or so. These are lovely to eat, each scoop of hearty barley comes smeared with a bright dollop of creamy squash.

Pork Yakitori

September 9, 2010


The smell of meat grilled over charcoal brings out the caveman in most of us. Two years ago my friend Jen E. and I were in Japan and the smell from yakitori houses was irresistible. Jen says, and I quote, “I wish there was grilled meat perfume!” Well, this is the next best thing since you kind of smell like a Tokyo yakitori when you’re done grilling.

These are, essentially, pork meat balls on a stick. I used Gelderman’s ground pork. And I didn’t grill over charcoal, just over gas. You could do these in a hot pan on the stove, too. I forgot to soak my bamboo sticks in water so that they didn’t burn, grr. So I wrapped the ends of the sticks in a bit of tinfoil. It didn’t prevent them from scorching but what happened is they started to smoke and infused the meat with a lovely charcoal taste. Turns out, I’m kind of genius. Anyway, as you wish, soak or smoke your skewers. I used small, flat two-pronged bamboo skewers, not the thin toothpick sort.

Makes ten little skewers

1 pound ground pork

3 green onions, minced

1″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat grill or pan to high heat. Mix together all the above ingredients by hand. Divide mixture up into ten even bits and gently, firmly, pack each bit around a skewer. They are a little fragile at this point so take some care placing them on the grill or into the pan, they will adhere more determinedly as they cook onto the stick. About five minutes on each side will do, they will be cooked through and juicy. I served with pickled radish, a pile of grilled leeks, sweet and green onions, mushrooms and grilled rice balls.

Grilled Rice – Makes 10 little rectangles

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, warm

1 heaping tablespoon roasted flax seed

1 – 2 teaspoons olive oil

Adding flax to the cooked brown rice imparts a yummy roasty taste, makes the rice a bit tackier and adds an extra dose of healthfulness. I cheated and used one of these to pack the rice into even rectangles. Heat a small, non-stick frying pan over medium heat with a splash of olive oil. Carefully place onigiri into the pan and sizzle evenly on all sides. Rice will crisp up super deliciously.

Yaki Onigiri

Meat ‘n Potatoes

September 6, 2010

Man Up

Have you noticed the jewel-like peppers at the markets lately? I bought a handful a couple of weeks ago when we were in the Okanagan. I had no plans for them but they were so pretty I couldn’t leave them. They looked lovely on our table for an afternoon, better than flowers. That night we grilled steak and corn on the cob. I chopped up the peppers, cooked them up in butter, and dumped them over the meat with salt and generous squeezes of lime. It was one of those dinners – it came together in minutes, just before midnight, and blew us all away.

This past Saturday I picked out some more peppers. Katie recommended Jackson’s Meats on 4th for hanger steak, called onglet en francaise. The butcher told us that hanger steak is sometimes referred to as butcher’s steak, preferred for its flavour and tenderness. I think this will make the perfect dinner for tonight, Labour Day Monday. It’s kind of end of summer appropriate.

One hanger steak is almost enough for two… we asked the butcher to pound it out for us

any cut of beef that you prefer

a few peppers, a mix of hot and mild is nice, sliced very thin

a couple of tablespoons of olive oil

sea salt and pepper to taste

lime, at least one whole

Season steak with sea salt (I like to use coarse sea salt for this) and ground black pepper and grill or panfry to desired doneness, not more than 10 minutes. Let rest, uncovered, on a plate while you sear the peppers. Pour a puddle of olive oil into a small pan and heat over medium until the oil begins to shimmer. Scrape the sliced peppers in and toss once or twice, shower with some sea salt. Done. Remove from heat and squeeze half the lime over. Slice the hanger steak into strips and pile hot, salty and lime-juicy peppers over top. This is full of sweet heat and meat, step up to the plate like a man and dig in. Add more lime if you like.

Potatoes, I used fingerlings but you can use any smallish type

a few small potatoes, halved and boiled until not quite cooked through

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, smashed

sea salt

Drain par-cooked potatoes and set aside. Heat olive oil over medium heat with crushed garlic clove, swirl pan. Add potatoes, cut side down, remove garlic, and cook until potatoes are a perfect shade of tarnished gold. I love how that sounds, but at the same time I’m thinking, Oh, please. It’s just a potato. Serve alongside peppery steak with some sweet sliced tomatoes.

'n Sungolds

Pepper Gems

Hot August Night

August 16, 2010

Chilled Noodle Salad

Sometimes when it’s this hot I don’t have much of an appetite. Just joking, I always have an appetite. In summer I usually crave some version of an Asian noodle salad. I have no set ingredient list or method, I put in what I feel like, chilled noodles, crunchy vegetables, fragrant herbs and a balance of sour, heat, salt and sweet. Today’s Asian salad of the day is Vietnamese in inspiration and utterly refreshing and satisfying. It’s best enjoyed on a shaded front porch with friends.

Serves four heartily for dinner with enough for lunch for two at the beach the next day!

lemongrass chicken, shredded, recipe below

vietnamese salad dressing, nuoc cham, recipe below

1 package of rice noodles, any width, cook according to package directions and rinse in cold water; drain and pile onto a serving platter or into large bowls

2 carrots, julienned

lettuce leaves, torn

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

1/2 bunch mint, chopped

handful basil leaves, pretty Thai basil if you can find it

2 green onions, minced

lime wedges

1 cup of nuts, toasted, I used cashews but peanuts are the usual

Okay, first things first, marinate the chicken. If you’re not a meat eater, too bad for you, you can leave this step out and substitute with medium-firm tofu. Also, disclaimer, given the use of fish sauce, this is not a super clean recipe. But it’s clean enough.

4 chicken breast halves, sliced in half to make two thin filets out of each half

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

2 tablespoons agave

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 stalks of lemon grass, pale part only, halved and smashed with the butt of a knife

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 shallot, roughly chopped

2 bird chilies, crushed

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Marinate for at least five minutes, if you’re hurried and/or impatient, or up to four hours. To grill, turn your barbecue on to high and heat it as hot hot as you can. You want to get a good char on, the rather high amount of agave will caramelize and scorch, imparting delicious carcinogen-loaded yumminess. The chicken grills quickly, a couple of minutes on each side. Once cooked, set onto a plate to shred when cool. Discard all the marinade.

Now make your salad dressing:

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons agave

1/2 cup water

1 bird chili, crushed, optional

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. Use the chili to further heat up a hot August night. On a side note, have I ever told you how much I love Neil Diamond? I’m talking his 12 greatest hits on an 8 track in a white Cadillac Eldorado kind of love. And the very phrase “hot August night” reminds me of his song Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. The song begins with “Hot August night and the leaves hanging down and the grass on the ground smelling (pause) sweet… ” I know that smell and I love it.

Now you’re kind of done. Arrange all your fresh and fragrant veggies and herbs and such either on a chopping board or individual dishes. You can build your own salad in a big bowl to your taste, I tend to go heavy on the cilantro, for example. Drizzle with the dressing and stir well with chopsticks. Plunk yourself down into your porch chair and crank up the cheesy tunes. I love summer and all that comes with it.

Salmon Salsa

June 14, 2010

Fish Dish

I think you might really like this dish of fish. Why wouldn’t you? You can scoop it up with those gluten-free crackers from the other day, wrap it in crisp leaves of iceberg or eat it straight out of the bowl. The cilantro and mango make it super fresh tasting and if you use wild pacific salmon, it’s a very good choice. It’s healthy. The method is four words long. This recipe is easy and flexible, feel free to up the heat by adding more jalepeno, or leave it out all together. Same with the fruit, you don’t have to use mango. Try pineapple or blueberries or strawberries. This is one of those recipes that’s more of an idea, you can take it and run with it. It’s not like a baking recipe where you should proceed with caution and knowledge, there is not much to muck up. But do keep the cilantro in it, don’t go swapping that out for something as pedestrian as parsley, flat leaf or other. Fresh cilantro has its own fragrant specialness. A particular green liveliness that makes me close my eyes and breathe in a little deeper. I’m serious when I tell you that cilantro is one of those things, a simple thing, that makes me feel content.

Makes about 4 cups

1 pound fresh salmon, seasoned and roasted to a medium rare to medium doneness, cooled and flaked

1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

3 green onions, minced

3 radishes, chopped (I put these in my first batch of salmon salsa)

1 jalepeno, seeded and minced

1 lime, zest and juice

2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon sesame oil

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Toss all ingredients together. The end.


Contentment is...

Stir Fry

May 6, 2010

Fry Fix

The other evening I was dragging myself home from work. I don’t mean to overstate it but, if one could, literally, drag one’s self around, that’s how I got myself home. There was no lightness in my step and I was exhausted. Between work and home there are about 598 little restaurants, they are hard to resist. Everything from ramen to curry, sushi and deep fried. How easy to sit down and order something not very healthy. I needed a fix, some energy, some colour, something to combat the scurvy. With great effort I hauled myself into a little produce shop and was wowed by the bright reds, yellows, greens and oranges. Okay, I could do this. Maybe just pick out a few things and make… Oh, God… What? This was taking too much energy. Okay, okay. Maybe I could just chop up a few things and… Of course, I could make a stir fry. Toss some tofu in for protein. Yes, good idea. It’s been ages since I’ve made a stir fry. So I picked out some bright vegetables and brought them home (in a somewhat less draggy mood) and started chopping. And chopping. I, as usual, got a bit carried away. A stir fry has a way of becoming huge in no time at all. Soup does that, too. To make a stir fry you don’t particularly need a recipe. Here’s what I did, if you particularly want a recipe.

Serves: A small crowd, or two for three days

1 tablespoon grape seed oil

2 medium onions, slivered

2 ribs of celery, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 cups of broccoli florets

4″ piece of ginger, slivered

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup chicken stock

1 small zucchini, chopped

4 mushrooms, sliced

1 small head of sui choy cabbage, shredded

1 red bell pepper, sliced (I forgot to add mine, I found it later by the side of the sink. The red slices would have looked pretty in the photo. Bummer)

2 large handfuls of bean sprouts

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 block of medium tofu, cubed

1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce

drizzle of sesame oil

toasted sesame seeds or nuts, such as toasted almond slices, optional

1 dollop of roasted chili paste, optional

Heat grape seed oil over high heat in a large frying pan or wok. When oil is just beginning to wisp and shimmer, add onions and celery, they will sizzle and crackle. Add carrot slices and continue to sizzle, tossing continuously. Add broccoli and ginger. Now the pan will be full of crisping vegetables and the smell of fresh ginger will hit the air, maybe some of the vegetables will scorch and stick to the pan, just scrape them off. Throw in the sea salt and add the stock, it will simmer quickly. Toss in the zucchini, mushrooms, shredded cabbage, red pepper (should you recall that it’s sitting patiently by the sink) bean sprouts, lemon zest and juice. Stir fry for a few more moments and carefully turn in the cubed tofu. Stir together gently with the tamari soy sauce. Turn off heat, everything should be hot and crisp, the vegetables will be releasing their liquid. Now, drizzle in the sesame oil (one of the best, most intoxicating smells ever: close your eyes, lean in and inhale the waft of toasty sesame oil scented steam) and add the sesame seeds or nuts, if using. Man up and add a dollop of roasted chili paste. Serve immediately. Eat the next day and the day after that, cold, for lunch. And stop dragging yourself around.

PS – By all means, use lots of garlic. I didn’t buy any and mine at home had turned spongey from neglect, so I didn’t use it. But I would have if I had some. Add it along with the ginger.

Sunshine Halibut

May 3, 2010

A Sunny Bowl of Poached Halibut

So, the fact of the matter is, my brother is a great cook. We come from a family of eaters. We have appetite. I think that when you like to eat, when you really in italics like to eat, you are graced with a natural ability to cook well. It’s instinctive and distantly related to hunger. Now, don’t start filing my brother into the category of a refined gourmet, that’s incorrect. There is not much refined about him. And gourmet? Hmm. If you believe that there is fine food to be discovered in gas stations across North America then my brother, by your definition, is a gourmet. He would argue that he has a refined palate. But he argues a lot.

This all goes to say that about a month ago, my brother made this dinner for our family. And it was everything that I like eating these days – it’s fresh, clean, simple and, most favourably, speedy. You will like it a lot. You might be so impressed that you will take his recommendation on food that is sold only in gas station convenience stores.

Serves 4

4 pieces fresh halibut, about 6 ounces each

sea salt

1 – 236 ml bottle clam juice (I didn’t even know this existed until my brother poached halibut in it. The only ingredients in it are clam extract and salt.)

fresh steamed vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, asparagus, potatoes (I had purple potatoes rolling about my fridge)

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

lemon wedges

Like I said, this is so easy. Prepare some steamed vegetables, cook them until they are bright and crisp and set aside. Time it right with poaching the halibut so everything is ready at the same time. Pour out the clam broth into a medium-sized skillet. I never say skillet in real life. Turn heat on to high, bring the liquid to a simmer. Meanwhile, season the halibut with sea salt. You could pepper it, too, but I didn’t feel like seeing black bits of ground pepper on the white of the halibut. I considered, briefly, using white pepper. Turn the clam juice down to a simmer and place the halibut in. Cover and poach for about seven minutes or so. Halibut is a quick-cooking fish so take care not to overcook it and dry it out. That’s it. Arrange fish, veggies and potatoes in a shallow bowl and spoon some of the poaching liquid over. Garnish with chopped parsley and a sunshiny wedge of fresh lemon. If you’ve seasoned the halibut with enough salt, the broth will be perfectly flavourful. If you went a bit scant on the salt, make sure to bring the shaker to the table with you.

Pork Tenderloin

January 18, 2010

Seared Crusted Roasted

Seared Crusted Roasted

Yesterday, for an after dinner treat – also known as dessert – I made a batch of these. If you haven’t tried my Black Bean Brownies before, you should. I think you might like them. But never mind that. This is a pork post.

For the pre-dessert meal I made this herb and salt crusted, mustard-smeared pork tenderloin. YUM! It’s fast and easy. And a lean protein to accompany mixed winter vegetables.

Serves 2

1 – 240g (just over 1/2 a pound) pork tenderloin

2 teaspoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, I used a smoked Maldon sea salt but didn’t note any smokiness

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, dried because I didn’t have fresh

a good splash of balsamic vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 450º. Set a heavy frying pan over a high flame and add coconut oil. Let oil melt and shimmer. Meanwhile, sprinkle more than half of the sea salt and grind some fresh pepper over your pork tenderloin. Your shimmering oil will be just beginning to hit the smoking point – perfect. Place the tenderloin in the hot oil, it will hiss and spit like an angry cat! That’s an unappealing comparison, isn’t it? Allow it to sizzle angrily for 3 – 4  minutes and turn to let it hiss and spit on a second side. Sear for a total of seven minutes. Remove from hot pan and cool momentarily. Now, still-hot, pick up the pork and smear messily with the Dijon and then roll in the remaining salt, a bit more pepper and the rosemary and fennel. There is no way to do this cleanly, you must smear and roll with your mucky hands. Return to the hot pan and, not touching the scorching handle with your bare hand (duh… ), place in oven. Roast for about 12 – 15 minutes, thermometer will read 150º for a medium-ish, still slightly pink and very moist doneness. You can take it 10 degrees under or over, given your preference. Keep in mind the temperature of tenderloin, and therefore its doneness, will continue to rise as it rests. Allow the tenderloin to rest at room temperature for at least five minutes. Meanwhile, add the splash of balsamic vinegar to the hot pan, no need to turn the heat on under it as it’s still very hot. Use a fork to mix the vinegar into the sticky bits of herbs and splots of Dijon. Scrape onto a plate. Slice the tenderloin into medallions and place on top of tangy-salty-yummy balsamic pan glaze.

Ready to Roll

Iceberg is Cool

June 30, 2009

So Cool

Crisp and Cool

I love chatting with my delightful friend Katie – she’s full of sparkle, opinions and ideas. As a fellow pastry chef and professional eater, she’s always brimming with food thoughts. Not too long ago she mentioned that she made lettuce wraps for dinner. What a smart idea, it’s a light, flavourful and healthy meal. Here’s what I think* she put in hers, though I may be busted for not listening closely. In my defense, we probably covered at least a dozen other topics in that particular conversation. I’m pretty sure she used iceberg lettuce, at least I hope so, because it’s just wrong to use another type. There’s nothing like the chilly, crispy cold of iceberg. Too bad it doesn’t have a cool reputation.

Serves 4

1 head iceberg lettuce, leaves pulled apart and piled high on a plate

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 rib of celery, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

3″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 pound lean ground turkey

6 shitake or button mushrooms, chopped

1 teaspoon agave nectar

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

12 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and chopped, optional**

1/2 fresh jalepeno, minced, use only if you like it extra spicy

drizzle of sesame oil

4 green onions, finely chopped

1/4 cup cashews, for crunch

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, swirl in olive oil. Add chopped onions and celery. Sauté for about five minutes, then add garlic, ginger and chili flakes and cook for another couple of minutes. Next, add the sea salt, turkey and mushrooms, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Cook for 7 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through. Mix in the agave. Turn off the heat and glug in the apple cider vinegar and throw in the fresh, crisp water chestnuts and the minced jalepeno, if you have the cojones to eat it hot. Turn onto a serving platter, drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with green onions. Serve immediately with super cold iceberg and some crunchy cashews. Call Katie after dinner to tell her that she’s smart and pretty.

Water Chestnuts

Water Chestnuts

* Okay, I confess that this is probably not at all what Katie put in her lettuce wraps. I just stole the idea of lettuce wraps for dinner, and I encourage you to do the same. Try making it with all vegetables, or fresh spot prawns. Or another type of ground meat. You get the idea.

** I bought fresh water chestnuts at South China Seas Trading Co. on Granville Island. I know they’re far from local but they’re totally worth seeking out for their sweet crispness.