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.



August 2, 2010

St. Malo Moules

… and, admittedly, frites. Yippee! So good. Much smaller than our BC ones. Packed with a briny hit of salt, and loaded with fresh parsley and shallots. Perfect lunch for our last day in St. Malo.

Summer Soup Elixir

There is a terrible bug going around. Thankfully, I have avoided it, but its unwelcome presence has me hankering for ginger and steamy hot veggies. On my way home yesterday I plotted to smash a small limb of fresh ginger, chop spring vegetables to bits and concoct a perfectly hot and simple elixir of a soup.

6 cups water

4″ piece fresh ginger, smashed

2 tablespoons dried shrimp

6 dried scallops

2 stalks celery, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

1 small zucchini, diced

3 mushrooms, diced

2 cups fresh spinach

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 green onions, minced

sesame oil

Don’t be skeptical about using dried seafood. It’s so good and makes this soup taste full flavoured and long simmered. Heat water in a medium sized pot and add smashed ginger, dried shrimp and scallops. Bring to a boil and simmer for several minutes. Using a Chinese strainer or reasonable facsimile, remove shrimp and scallops to a chopping board. Stir in diced celery and carrots and simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the zucchini and mushrooms. Shred the cooled scallops and add to your soup. I discard the shrimp as I don’t much care for the texture. However, if you like, you can chop the shrimp and add to the soup, too. Stir in the spinach, sea salt and green onion. Heat through and serve, being mindful to leave the large pieces of fresh ginger in the pot. Drizzle each bowl with a small stream of sesame oil.

Dried Scallop

Dried Shrimp

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...

BC Shrimp

May 17, 2010


I didn’t know it when I was younger, but I was spoiled with food. From the best futomaki in all the world to fresh-pressed apple juice from our backyard apple tree. Of course, I was appalled at the apple juice that we pressed. It was brown, murky and had a tendency to separate. “Blech, why can’t we buy Sun-Rype like everyone else?! This is gross.” Oh, stupid girl. I wanted my juice clear, sparkling and from a tin. My grandfather was a Japanese-Canadian commercial fisherman, and I was quite accustomed to the best, freshest salmon, octopus and spot prawns. I didn’t know spot prawns were called spot prawns, we just called them shrimp. They would be served, with about 40 other dishes, at most of our family gatherings. Platters of them, piled high, boiled and served at room temperature or cold, in shell. There is not a better meal than a plate of never-ending shrimp with the odd piece of sushi and some ohitashi.

It seems, and rightly so, that spot prawns are all the rage in Vancouver lately. I’m pleased that we’re all learning about a great choice for shrimp in our own backyard. There are a lot of ways to prepare BC shrimp, or spot prawns, and most of our local chefs have some fine recipes. But, for me, the best way to prepare them is simply boiled. Buy them live. They are very energetic, they will twitch and flip their way out of an open bag and try to make a run for it. Their very liveliness might make you scream like a girl. Pull yourself together. Square your shoulders, take a deep breath and get on with the business of a shrimp boil.

For Two

3 pounds of fresh, live shrimp (I think they’re called spot prawns because of the white dots that they sport on each side)

sea salt, about 2 teaspoons

big pot of boiling water

soy sauce

Buy your live shrimp from T&T Supermarket, if you can. I bought some on special this past Saturday for $7.99 a pound, which is a steal. Or you can buy them right off the boats near Granville Island for $12 a pound. Get some, bring them home. The bag that they’re in will lurch and twitch. You should cook them right away. If they sit in the fridge and start to suffer, or die, that’s just mean. Plus, it will make their meat mushy. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add about two teaspoons of sea salt. Open the bag, at least one will try to make a run for it. Swiftly turn your bag of shrimp into the water. I walk away, discard the bag, wash my hands and return to task. I don’t stay to watch them cook. At least 30 seconds will have passed and your shrimp will be done. Empty shrimp into a colander in the sink and run cold water over them until they’ve cooled. Pile onto a plate and serve with soy sauce. A quick swish through a bit of soy is absolute perfection with the sweet, tender meat.

Ready to Peel

Run Spot Run

Oops. Too slow.

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.

Moules au Vin Blanc

November 16, 2009


Steamed Mussels

Local steamed mussels make for an easy and delicious meal. Serve with a simple salad, and there you have dinner. Mussels are a great source of protein, vitamin B12 and iron. The most classic and, I think best, preparation for them is steamed with white wine – moules au vin blanc. Sadly, we will have no frites. I bend the clean-eating rules a bit and add a large glug of white wine but you can leave it out if you’re more virtuous. I guess then you’d have to call this moules sans vin blanc.

Serves 2

2 pounds local mussels, cleaned*

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 shallots, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

1 large glug of white wine, optional

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro

2 cups fresh spinach, optional

Heat a large cast-iron pot over high heat and swirl in the olive oil. Add shallots and garlic, and sauté for about two minutes. Turn mussels into pot, taking care to not crack their shells. Add salt and white wine, if you’re using. Cover with lid and allow to steam for about 7 minutes. Lift off lid to add lemon juice, parsley or cilantro and spinach, if you’ve opted to put it in, and cover again. Allow to steam for a further 3 minutes or so. Lift lid and peer through the fragrant steam to see if most of the mussels have opened, discard any that haven’t. Stir carefully to distribute the greens and divide amongst two large dinner bowls. Serve with a fresh, crisp salad but not, unfortunately, with bread to sop up the flavourful broth. Take a moment to get over that, and the lack of fries while you’re at it, and use a spoon.

* After you bring your mussels home, you will need to wash and debeard them. This is simple: just rinse mussels under fresh water, and remove the beard – hairy vegetative growth – attached to the outside of the shell by giving it a quick tug. Also, if you are not cooking your mussels right away, keep them in the fridge in a bowl, covered with a damp tea towel. Do not store in a sealed bag, this will suffocate them.

In Paper

August 25, 2009


All Wrapped Up

This tidy little parcel is a filet of halibut with green chutney. Its simple and stark parchment packaging is a surprising contrast to the intense flavours wrapped up inside – it’s fresh, slightly spicy, tangy and salty-sweet. Other than how startlingly delicious this is, what I love about it is that you can do all the work ahead of time, and then tuck packets neatly into the fridge until it’s time for dinner. They bake in about 15 minutes.

Serves 4 happy people: 2 Mikes, a Kat and me!

4 – 5 oz filets of fresh halibut

4 – 8″ x 12″ pieces of parchment

2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic

1/2 jalepeno

1 teaspoon agave

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 fresh lime, juiced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground*

1 bunch cilantro, most of the stems chopped off

1 bunch mint, leaves only

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut

Haul out your food processor to make the chutney. I have chopped this by hand with beautiful results, but who has time for that on a weeknight? First, put the ginger, garlic and jalepeno into the bowl of your food processor and pulse off and on until you have a very chunky mixture. Add the agave, sea salt, lime juice, cilantro and mint and process briefly, until a rough chutney forms. It should be quite textural, don’t over process – see photo below. Turn the chutney into a medium-sized bowl and mix in the coconut. To wrap en papillote: lay each filet of halibut in the centre of the parchment and pile the chutney evenly over the four filets. Now, I think I know what you might be thinking at this point, and that’s “Holy crap. There is way too much chutney here. What is she, crazy?” But, no. The chutney, pressed on top of the halibut, is going to be about the same thickness. This is what you want, it’s good. In fact, you might even want more, you’re crazy that way. So now, working with one filet at a time, pull up the long sides of parchment to meet high in the centre and fold neatly over and over until it’s pressed snugly-but-not-too-tightly against the halibut. Tuck the ends underneath and place on a baking sheet. Repeat. Your fourth one will look much prettier than your first one. If you want, ’cause you’re kind of crazy, you can re-do it. Keep in the fridge until it’s almost time for dinner. Pre-heat your oven to 400º. Halibut is one of the fastest cooking fishes around, so take care not to over-bake, it will dry out quickly even though the chutney and parchment offer some moistness and insulation. Bake for about 15 minutes, it will depend on the thickness of your fish, but that will probably do. If you’re a stickler, you could stick in an instant-read thermometer, it should read 145º.

* This is important. Don’t go using some pre-ground cumin dust that is stashed away in your spice/junk drawer. Get some whole cumin seeds, heat up a frying pan and dry-roast over high until wisps of fragrant smoke begin to rise, shake to prevent scorching. Once cooled, crush or grind as best you can. I do a good amount at a time with a mortar and pestle, but you could also buzz it up in a clean coffee grinder or crush it with the bottom of a bowl on top of your counter. I prefer coarsely ground cumin, you don’t need to grind it to a fine, dusty powder. Unless you want to.



Grilled Salmon with Daikon

August 21, 2009

Coho with Daikon

Coho with Daikon

Michael, my husband, was lucky enough to go fishing in the Queen Charlotte’s where he caught spring and coho salmon, and some halibut. My favourite way to eat salmon is with grated daikon, my second favourite is miso salmon. Let me tell you a little bit about daikon. Daikon is a long, unassuming-looking Chinese radish. It resembles a large white carrot and is the most popular vegetable grown in Japan. It is so pale-looking that you might not give it a second glance. But, when grated, it releases a bit if heat and a peculiar odor. Peculiar in a good way. It will have you glancing around your kitchen, wondering what smells. Sometimes the most delicious things to eat are also the stinkiest. Think of smelly cheese and pungent truffles. Daikon is one of those things. It is SO good with salmon. I don’t think I’m overstating this. Here’s what to do.

Serves 4

1 filet of salmon, skin on, about 1 1/2 pounds

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

a pinch of salt

1 daikon, about the size of a large carrot, or even larger, peeled

2 green onions, chopped

some tamari soy sauce

As much as possible, I cook fish outside on my gas barbecue. So, turn your barbecue on.* I usually grill everything on high, lowering the temperature as needed by lifting the lid. I’m impatient and I think fast, hot heat is best for most things – slow-cooked pork butt is an exception. As an aside, you might like to know that I am renowned for my butt, but that’s a recipe for another blog. The old me would have had a dirty-eating blog called Baker’s Imbalance. Where was I? Your barbecue is heating. Lightly olive oil the top side of your filet ‘o salmon, and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Lay your salmon flesh side down on the grill, and cook for about five minutes. Meanwhile, using the finest holes on a box grater, grate your big daikon into a bowl. Grate the whole thing, the bowl is necessary because the daikon will release a whole lot of liquid. You can tip off most of the liquid into the sink. Don’t get distracted by your large, smelly daikon, go turn your salmon 45º so that you create appealing diamond-shaped grill marks. Cook for another couple of minutes and then flip over onto a serving platter. Serve salmon topped with daikon, green onion and a little bit of tamari soy sauce. SO GOOD!


Dai (Large) Kon (Root)

* You can still make this even if you don’t have a barbecue. Pre-heat your oven to 425º. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and lay your salmon flesh side up, skin will be against the foil. Again, lightly olive oil and sea salt the salmon and slide into your hot oven. Cook for 7 – 10 minutes. Now your kitchen will smell like fresh roasted fish and grated daikon.


July 7, 2009

Miso Cod

Miso Cod

Miso is so good, its complex and salty flavour works on many things. In fact, when you cook with miso it tastes as though you’ve spent hours slaving in the kitchen, but this particular recipe takes less than a minute to mix together. Miso is a nutritious fermented soybean paste that’s made by steaming and crushing soybeans, adding sea salt and koji (a grain culture that triggers fermentation) and then aging for three to thirty months. Koji is derived from either rice, wheat, or soybeans, so avoid the wheat one if you’re gluten-free. There are three colours of miso, and it’s the koji that influences the colour, from pale yellow to dark chocolate. The three colours of miso are: white, or sendaimiso; yellow, or shinshumiso; and red, akamiso. Typically, the lighter the miso the more delicate its flavour. I think you probably have miso in your fridge, right?

Makes enough for 6 – 6 oz portions of fish, pork, chicken, or beef

1/4 cup organic miso paste, any colour

3 green onions, minced, white and light green parts only

2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated

2 teaspoons agave nectar

Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl. Smear evenly over each piece of protein. I baked miso cod in a hot oven – 450º – for about 20 minutes, until cooked through. I’ve grilled many miso’d things on my barbecue with great success – small, tender pieces of miso beef on a skewer is exceptionally tasty. Obviously, cooking times will vary depending on what you’re using. Oh, when buying miso paste, seek out organic.