Those little watermelons you see everywhere in grocery stores this time of year? Turns out they make the perfect vehicle for fancy patio drinks for one. I watched Alton Brown juice a whole watermelon with a hand-held immersion blender, and the next time I saw a stack of mini watermelons I envisioned a coconut or pineapple-style cocktail, only it’s far easier to access the innards of a watermelon, and being 94% water, it blitzes up into juice in a few minutes. So we gave it a try at Camp Hoo-ha this weekend, and it worked beautifully – we made watermelon-mint mojitos with rum and fresh mint, although you could do margaritas or really any other cocktail you can dream up. I made them again in a segment on BT Calgary on Monday, along with a snacky kind of patio nibble made up of cubed watermelon, olives and feta in a smear of garlicky yogurt. Everyone loves watermelon-feta salad, and this is kind of a fingerContinue reading
Crêpes are, truly, one of my favourite things to eat – and to me they taste like summer, perhaps because we always make them on mornings when everyone is around and on holiday, or perhaps because they’re best with berries and other seasonal fruit. (Honestly, my favourite way to eat a crêpe is still to spread it with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, add a squeeze of lemon if there’s one around, roll it up and eat it standing at the stove while I make more crêpes.)
This year I’m doing a series with the Egg Farmers of Canada, making video tutorials that suit the seasons, and this is what I chose for the summer. Crêpes are a fun thing to get the kids into making too – once you have the method down pat, it’s a skill you’ll keep forever. And you make plenty of friends and admirers when you know how to make a batch of crêpes.
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At my dad’s birthday last year, we made an entire menu of Indian curries – his favourite. But when I volunteered to make the naan, my mom insisted on ordering some to pick up from a local restaurant. It’s ok, I told her – I can make pretty good naan from scratch! But she insisted, and someone wound up stuck in traffic driving to and from the restaurant, and we wound up with cold, no longer fresh from the oven naan with which to scoop up our curries.
A few months later she was over when I had a stack of naan on the kitchen counter. She tore into a piece and asked where I got it. “You made this?!” she asked, incredulous. We really could have had some of yours!
Of course there’s no beating a batch of naan that has just been cooked in a tandoor oven, which is tall and cylindrical and reaches temperatures of about 800F, much like a pizza oven. But you can make a decent batch of naan in a cast iron skillet, which withstands high temperatures and distributes it evenly. You could even bring a batch of dough and a skillet camping, and cook it directly over the campfire for a little added smokiness. I’ll never get tired of the way the dough bubbles dramatically in the hot skillet.
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Have you been watching Jinhee on Top Chef Canada? She’s killing it. She always does.
I met Jinhee years ago, when she was cooking over at Raw Bar, and everything she made was magic. She’s brilliant and humble and generous and kind, and I love that she secretly switched from accounting to cooking but didn’t tell her mom (back home in Korea) until she made it to the helm in one of the best kitchens in Calgary.
While they were building Foreign Concept, she won the Gold Medal Plates semi-finals (which she went on to win, by the way), by cooking out of her apartment kitchen. (The restaurant was still under construction.) She has brought home the gold two years in a row, and silver the year before.
Traveling through Vietnam last year, she fell in love with this Hanoi street dish – Cha Cá Lã Vong – cooked in a well used tin skillet over a small burner. It’s the only thing this particular restaurant made, and it blew her away. So she came back to Calgary and made it her own way – using local rainbow trout. Traditionally it’s made with whitefish, so really – whatever you come across that looks fresh and good. Anything goes.
We all need emergency meals some days. I’ve been eyeing this – a soupy sort of one pot pasta that’s a staple in Rome, and the sort of humble home-cooked meal that intrigues me most about visiting such a place. (Although yes, I would also make the trip just for the pizza.) As with most staples of this kind, there are as many variations as there are people who make it. This particular version is cooked quickly on the stovetop, pasta and all, which allows the starch from the pasta to thicken the sauce. It works-truly. I brought it in to CBC this morning as an example of the sort of last-minute I-don’t-know-what’s-for-dinner emergency meal you can rummage through your pantry for and eat in 20 minutes rather than give in to take out.
Hey, who loves cheese puffs?
I’ve partnered up again with the Egg Farmers of Canada to make a video tutorial on how to make cheesy, eggy gougères for their EggcentricTV app, as part of their new spring recipe collection. Gougères are light, airy puffs traditionally made with gruyère, but I find aged Gouda a pretty amazing alternate.
Gougères are fantastic for spring get-togethers – they’re great for nibbling any time of the year, particularly when there’s wine involved, but seem particularly well-suited to spring gatherings, and just as fitting for brunch as cocktails on the patio, if you’re lucky enough to be rid of the snow. If not, mix up a batch of these, open a bottle of wine and hunker down.
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This! Is what Easter weekend is all about. Sweet breakfast breads (waffles! crêpes! cinnamon buns! babka!) and trying to outsmart the nephews (who are smaller, bendier and wilier than I) for Mini Eggs. I gave cinnamon babka a go early – I’ve wanted to try it for awhile, and figured chocolate babka on top of the Easter hunt may be a bit over the top. Truth: cinnamon is not a lesser babka.
Also! I had a jar of Rosen’s Cinnamon Bun Spread on my shelf, and it suddenly seemed as if it was made for babka. It was – if you can get your hands on a jar, a small one was perfect for two babkas, and I warmed it for no more than 10 seconds in the microwave first just to give it added spreadability. Otherwise, mix brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, and a bit of honey or maple syrup for added stickiness.
Really, I just wanted to make another babka so I could take pictures of it. They’re so ridiculously satisfying to make – all the twistiness makes it look finicky, but it’s really not – it’s forgiving, and once you cut and twist and tuck the dough into the pan, no matter how wonky it is, it will look fabulous coming out of the oven. Which is what I love about the chemistry of baking.
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My new favourite getaway is an escape to a not-so-back country lodge in the Rocky mountains – one you don’t have to access by ski or snowshoe with your stuff strapped to your back, but can in fact drive right up to, park your car, and be sitting in front of a crackling wood fire in five minutes. Although it’s spring break and my feeds are full of friends dipping toes into pools and sitting on beaches, to me this is the stuff dreams are made of. And it’s pure Canadiana.
These not-so-back country lodges are a little off the beaten path (literally), and so tend to not be as front-of-mind as the usual Banff/Canmore/Lake Louise hotel destinations. I’ve been to a few, but once I started seeking them out I realized how much I love them, how they embody coziness and encourage unplugging, how (unless you ski – I haven’t for years) they offer a true hideout from modern day life. And while all have access to wireless, it’s usually a challenge to get a good signal, so you’re almost forced to disconnect.
Last summer I was doing some filming at Storm Mountain Lodge. I had never been, and completely fell in love with the place. Constructed in 1922 as one of eight Bungalow Camps built by Canadian Pacific Railway to promote tourism in the Rockies, the original log lodge and dozen bungalows are still in use. It was built with the perfect vantage point, with a panorama of mountain peaks as a backdrop; in the early 1920’s, Canadian Pacific named this driving route the most spectacular motor trip on the continent.
I mean come on – how could you not completely adore this place? It’s like the ultimate family cabin.
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This was all that I salvaged from the show this morning – we all stood around the plate at the studio and stabbed at it with forks at 8:30 am.
Alright, so it’s not really a *pie*. But it was baked in a pie plate and is technically topped with pastry, so I call it fair game to celebrate Pi day. Plus it’s unbelievably delicious, and outside my regular wheelhouse – normally I would have celebrated by clearing the last of the rhubarb out of my freezer, but David put in a subtle request yesterday for CBC this morning, and so I went ahead and made it. Which is why I have these photos taken on my phone in the dark of late last night and early this morning – not ideal, but you get the gist. I wanted you to see what the stewy part looked like, and the crumpled phyllo on top.
It’s pretty straightforward, as far as braises go – the original instructs tossing the meat in flour, but I prefer to brown the meat itself, and get some good colour on it before shaking some flour overtop to thicken the stewy sauce. Beyond the spices – I had ras el hanout, but either ran out or couldn’t find it, and didn’t miss it at all – and I left out the cloves because I’m not a fan, and the saffron because I don’t expect anyone to have it in their kitchen. In went a tin of tomatoes, two lemon halves, squeezed and zested and tossed in whole, along with a cinnamon stick and some honey and a pour of pomegranate molasses, and oh, was it delicious. I made it last night and topped it with scrunched-up buttered sheets of phyllo this morning for the show, and although I tend to glaze over when I see crumpled phyllo-topped things, it was perfect – crunchy and buttery and light, giving you the sensation of eating pastry without being heavy. A shortcrust lid on this lamb stew might have put it over the top, but a few sheets of phyllo was brilliant.