Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Canadian Culinary Championships- for the Uber Foodie

Two years ago, I got to "wave" an autographed Olympic Torch, the grand prize in a fundraising draw at the Canadian Culinary Championships, while enticing attendees to "take a chance" and buy a ticket!  The first event of the weekend was crowded and you could feel the buzz!  "Did you try the dish from Vancouver?" "Check out the dish from St. John's."  Tonight, attendees rate the teams- more buzz- as people champion their favourites.  

My favourite event?  The Saturday morning Black Box Competition or, as I would call it: Chopped Live! The chefs prepare two amazing dishes using local ingredients in front of a small audience.  At the Saturday night Grand Finale Event, the chefs serve their signature dishes for hundred of guests; the Silent Auction offers up amazing items and the entertainment is lively.  

I'm happy to report that last year's Gold Medal Winner was Marc Lépine from Ottawa, my hometown.

Black Box Competition

Chef Anthony McCarthy • <a style="font-size:0.8em;" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/77299378@N02/7085451819/" target="_blank">View on Flickr</a>CCC Winning Chefs • <a style="font-size:0.8em;" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/77299378@N02/7085452023/" target="_blank">View on Flickr</a>I love volunteering for this weekend's events.  It's an opportunity to get up close and personal with Canada's culinary stars.

To get to Kelowna, they've competed regionally.  These gold medal winners from across Canada meet head to head in Kelowna- this year (2013), February 8 and 9, for the ultimate National competition.

Chef Jan Trittenbach • <a style="font-size:0.8em;" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/77299378@N02/6939377726/" target="_blank">View on Flickr</a>
Chef Michael Daquisto • <a style="font-size:0.8em;" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/77299378@N02/6939380162/" target="_blank">View on Flickr</a>It's also a fundraising weekend.  Elite Olympic athletes benefit from the millions of dollars raised since 2006.

Visit their website for up to the minute information: goldmedalplates. com

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fèves au Lard- The Tradition Continues... with Pulled Pork!

Fèves au lard- Baked Beans with pulled pork.
These are baked beans to you... Where there is winter, there will be baked beans! Everyone has a favourite recipe.  Are yours made with molasses, brown sugar or maple syrup?  Do you use salt pork or bacon? So many options...

In my French Canadian family, fèves au lard were served at Christmas parties (with the tourtières), skating parties, after snow rides or skiing, anytime a crowd needed good food.  During my week as a scout camp cook, beans were a favourite with the boys.  However, the ingredients were a major subject of discussion among us volunteer parent cooks.  I won over the crew with my "recipe" which included a pork roast in the beans.  Ahem, who would turn down beans and pulled pork, all in one pot?

The measurements in this recipe are approximate.  Keep tasting and adjusting your ingredients.  I've made these without the pork for a great vegetarian dish.

This recipe will serve four to six generously.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Even Two Year Olds Can Cook- Aaliyah's Egg Salad

Aaliyah with her Egg Salad!  It was so fun!
 I travelled from Kelowna to Ottawa recently to visit Aaliyah, my wonderful, beautiful two and a half year old granddaughter.  I am blessed!

Healthy eating is so important, I'm so proud to see how varied Aaliyah's diet is.  She and her mama and papa must be spending time in the kitchen together, because this kid knows "stuff"!  Thank you mama and papa!

I'm now on the lookout for kid friendly recipes to share with my budding chef!  Our mission one morning was to cook an egg salad for breakfast.  Aaliyah was a great sous chef- she cracked and peeled the boiled eggs and was a master egg decorator!  This recipe looks good, tasted great and is kid friendly.

To serve four.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup- So Easy! So Good!

This awesome soup is so easy to make- it practically makes itself :-).  I love butternut squash and, combined with apples and maple syrup, it becomes a rich, creamy soup to be perfectly garnished with more roasted apples or homemade croutons.

Two toppings: caramelized apples (left) and croutons (right)

The measurements for the ingredients are approximate.  Please, taste and adjust as you go.

To serve four to six generously.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The "Other" Shrimp and Sweet Potato Shrimp Cakes

These are the original sweet potato shrimp cakes- the ones my daughter loves.  She made them with me the first time we tried out the recipe and adopted it as her favourite. These shrimp cakes are easy to make, freeze well and are always popular with guests.

To serve four to six...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Quinoa Tabouleh- Call It Fusion!

The Lebanese introduced us to tabouleh, their parsley and bulgur salad filled with tomato, cucumber, onion and mint in a lemony dressing.  It's a healthy, tasty salad.

Replace the bulgur with quinoa and you have yourself the same tasty salad, but with a high protein grain and, I think, a lighter texture.  Quinoa is super easy to cook and easily absorbs the flavour of the dressing.  This recipe is by no means authentic, but it hits the flavour highs- let's call it fusion.

The quantities listed below are approximate.  Just add slowly, taste and adjust as you go.  And, don't be afraid to substitute or to add more or less of the vegetable quantities given.  For example: mint is often unavailable in the winter, so I tend to just omit it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Leek and Potato Soup- the Rustic One

One of my first "newlywed" dinners featured Vichyssoise, a creamy, cold leek and potato soup.  I hovered over it, pureed and strained it to absolutely remove any lumps and generally babied it.  I was entertaining my in-laws after all and wanted soup perfection!  Well, the soup was great (and so was the rest of the dinner).  Thing was, my guests didn't like cold soups but they valiantly slurped on and only mentioned their preference over dessert.  Had I known, I could have made this rustic version...

Rustic leek and potato soup is the hearty version.  I like chunky soups so I save some of the sliced leek to add at the same time as the potatoes.  They keep their shape in the soup when served.

When winter winds start to blow, this is one of the warming "go to" soups.  Serve it with a wonderful baguette and you have a meal!

To serve 6-8.

Leek and Potato Cream Soup- Hot or Cold?

The Brits and the French have their versions of Cream of Leek and Potato soup; the French took it one step further- they also serve it cold and call it Vichyssoise... the summer version.  Thailand even has a version- truthfully, that would likely be called fusion cuisine and it probably has never been seen in Thailand :-)

I prefer this soup hot, with a light salad and a warm baguette.  Sit by the window and watch the snow fall and the cars slide by...  It's easy and quick to put together and it leaves lots of room to "play".  Try to use homemade chicken stock- it's so much more flavourful than the store bought stuff.  Use vegetable stock for a totally meatless version.  You could garnish your soup with homemade croutons.
Leek and Potato soup topped with homemade croutons
The directions for this soup are much the same as those for the rustic leek and potato soup.  At least, until you puree and add the cream. So, you could make a big batch and divide it into the two versions.

To serve 4-6

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chicken Jalfrezi- the Stir-Fry

I have posted two versions (actually every Indian cook probably has their own version) of Jalfrezi- the one below is stir fried and thickened slightly with a slurry or tomato paste.  The other finishes the dish in a thick tomato curry sauce (use the Curry Sauce base).

This version of Chicken Jalfrezi is more traditional and can also be found on restaurant menus.  It is more like a stir-fry, without the thick tomato based curry sauce.

This will serve four to six...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Homemade Croutons- Stocking the Pantry

When I go to the grocery store, I regularly check the reduced, day old bread bin for baguettes at 50% off.  Why would the champion of "fresh" buy old bread, you ask?  Well, they make great, economical, homemade croutons.

If you like great salad (and who doesn't?) with fresh, crispy lettuce, beautiful juicy ripe tomatoes, sweet onions and crunchy cucumber, why not top it with your own homemade croutons?  

Coq au Vin- Classic French!

I call it Coq au Vin but you could also call it an upscale chicken stew.  For this rustic chicken dish, I slowly braise my meat in red wine, rich homemade chicken broth and herbs.  Throw in mushrooms and onions and I have an amazing dish to serve with pasta or mashed potatoes.   Light the candles, start the music and pour the wine- dinner is on!  Oh! and send the children to grandma's.

This will serve 4 generously.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Eggplant Parmesan- on the lighter side...

I haven't met an eggplant parmesan I didn't love!  Crispy, breaded eggplant nestled in rich tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.  What's not to love?  hummmm, the calories?

My goal with this recipe is to cut out some of those calories without losing the deliciousness of the eggplant parmesan.  It won't be a "skinny" recipe, but it will cut out some of them.

Eggplant Parmesan ready for the freezer
This recipe will serve 6 to 8.

California Dreaming... of California Chickpea and Vegetable Stew

This stew lights up my day on those cold, dark winter days.  It's chock full of fresh vegetables and brothy, not the usual thick, heavy winter stew.  Just gives me that California Dreaming feeling.  Now, if only we could grow our veggies year round like they do!

 This recipe evolved from one I found in a cookbook called "The Great American Stewpot".  It's a quick and easy one to make your own...I've added many optional vegetable suggestions- if you have more ideas, let me know.  Don't let the list of ingredients scare you- they're just veggies full of goodness!

To serve 4 to 6...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ever Meet a Savoury Biscotti? Prosciutto Parm Biscotti- your new best friend...

Did you think biscotti were only sweet treats?  Not so!  A few years ago, I went through my "biscotti" phase and baked all kinds, of sweet biscotti.  Then I found a recipe for savoury ones.  Who would have thought?  Hummmm  They were light, but rich and delicious and they froze well.  I would often float them on top of a cream soup (à la French onion) and they provided just the right texture and "bite".  Or, chop them up and use them as croutons.  Your guests will love them with white or rosé wine and so will you. 

And, I guarantee your kitchen will smell wonderful while they bake :-)

To make about 16 large biscotti... 

More Savoury Biscotti- Chipotle Chile and Corn

The snow just keeps coming today in Kelowna!  A perfect day for playing in the kitchen: one batch of Prosciutto/Parm biscotti; one batch of Bacon/Parm biscotti; and one to serve with chili- Chipotle Chile and Corn biscotti.  All great things to have on hand in the freezer.

Biscotti means twice baked, usually sweet, crispy cookie like bars of Italian origin.  Their savoury cousins are less well known but just as easy to bake and oh so popular with wine and on the appie tray.  Biscotti are easy to make, keep well and are also great hostess gifts...

The Chipotle Chili and Corn biscotti is a heavier biscuit than the others. The flavours are more subtle- light corn, a hint of oregano and, just when you wonder about that chile, it hits your taste buds.  Wow!

This recipes makes approx. 625 gr. of baked biscotti- about two dozen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Stuffed Meatloaf- Dazzle your Guests!

Meatloaf is one of those dishes that evokes great memories of mamma's cooking and family gatherings!  I wanted to elevate the everyday meatloaf to special guest worthy status.  When I need fresh ideas, I often look up Mario Batali's recipes.  This stuffed meat loaf is based on one of his dishes... and will serve eight.  Thanks Mario!

Meatloaf Just Like Mama's

When I was growing up, I just didn't appreciate mama's meat loaf: moist and flavourful, truly a work of culinary art.  When I had a young family of my own, I tried making my first meat loaf.  It was an eye opener!  Hard as a hockey puck- just a pitiful failure.  I finally found the recipe, and the secret,  for mama's meat loaf and it is moist and flavourful.  Hallelujah!

To serve 6 to 8.

Brian's Italian Sausage and Eggplant Pasta- Delicioso!

A good friend was reminiscing about a wonderful pasta dish he had once enjoyed and how he couldn't find the dish on Vancouver restaurant menus.  I love culinary challenges, so I made it my mission to recreate Brian's favourite pasta dish using eggplant, capers, olives, Italian sausage and cheese.  Brian tells me that I came pretty darn close to the mark.  This hearty dish is quickly put together for a weeknight supper.

Brian's Italian Sausage and Eggplant Pasta

Great News!  Omit the Italian sausage and you have a fabulous vegetarian dish.  Let's call it Jo's Eggplant pasta :-)

Jo's vegetarian version
To serve 4-6