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I get the sense that sourdough starters are starting to come back into fashion – for the most part, it’s the bakers and chefs who nurture their bubbling little jars, texting each other about feeding schedules and storage advice. I started some new starter earlier this summer – the batch I had, with a backup tucked away in the back of the freezer, finally gave up due to neglect. I got them going, and then left town – and on the way back from Tofino, we detoured through Edmonton, popping in to Prairie Gardens farm in Bon Accord, where chef Blair Lebsack and Caitlin Fulton of Rge Rd cook farm dinners, they teach classes using the wood-fired cobb oven – pizza, charred salads with tomatoes, arugula and beans and beans from the garden, things like charred greens, braised leeks and Brussels sprouts, roasted herbs, quick pickles, bannock, cooked on a stick over the fire, pastry for spiced apple empanadas and galettes. Christine Sandford is oneContinue reading

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A couple months ago now I went to Yellowknife and went fishing for pike. I caught a 12 pounder (estimated – it was big) and got to judge the World Shore Lunch Championships – an event where dozens of chefs and fishermen gather to cook whitefish like they would onshore – over an open fire. It’s something we experienced before the competition, on the aforementioned fishing trip on Great Slave Lake. Our guide steered our boat toward a rocky island – they’re all rocky there, with so little in the way of soil that the spindly trees cling for dear life to the rocks they somehow sprung out from. He cleaned the three or four pike we kept right on the mossy ground cover, tossing the head, tail, spine and entrails over one shoulder for the gulls, the perfect filets directly onto the soil and moss. One of the group gathered them up into a stainless steel bowl and took them down to the waterContinue reading

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I do all my cooking – and dishes – outside now. It’s kind of like camping, with real beds. The grill is my new BFF. Really, it’s amazing what you can do on it. I’m wondering if I even need a stove. I’m getting so used to cooking in my back yard that I might not want to go back into my kitchen even if it does miraculously get finished. This morning I made jambalaya on it. I came across this recipe called “camping jambalaya” – I don’t know what kind of crazy camping cooks are out there, but I’m not this ambitious when I’m cooking over a campfire and sleeping in a tent. To me, camping is an excuse to eat hot dogs and Cheezies. I’m pretty sure you won’t find me mincing garlic at a campsite any time soon. However. You can grill the meat bits (sausage, chicken and shrimp) on the barbecue, and the rest of the bits in your cast ironContinue reading

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I know, cooking a $50 prime rib is scary. Trusting it to cook properly on the grill can be even scarier. But once you get the hang of cooking on your grill over indirect heat – there really is nothing to it – it’s very liberating to realize you can use your backyard barbecue much like your indoor oven. Prime rib is a classic – the marbling means it will be juicy, the bone means one lucky person (or a few, if you get a 2 or 3 bone roast) will get to stretch out in the grass and gnaw on it afterward. This is a single bone roast – almost like an enormous steak. A beautiful cut of meat I do not want to screw up. So here’s the trick: once you prep your roast however you like it – I just pat it dry with paper towel, then rub it with a cut garlic clove and sprinkle with salt and pepper – aContinue reading

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Guys! I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board a plane to Italy. ITALY! While I have been traveling a lot lately, I haven’t been to Europe since I was 15 and went one summer with my parents and sisters, at which time my only goals were to 1) get a tan, 2) seek out United Colours of Benetton stores in order to source an authentic green and white rugby shirt, and 3) flirt with cute Italian boys on scooters. (Mission accomplished.) I’m ecstatic and nervous, loaded down with work and reading material and snacks for the 9 1/2 hour flight to Frankfurt, and I can’t wait to find out if the pizzas and pastas taste as ethereal as they did to my 15 year old self. Most of my packing time was spent packing up the kitchen, because while I spend my time sitting in Italian trattorias and visiting producers of pasta, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan and ham, Mike’s to-do list includes tearing out theContinue reading

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These. Seriously. I’ve had my share of salmon burgers – most of them frozen and shrinkwrapped, tasty but dry. I’ve never fallen in love with a salmon burger until today. These were made with fresh salmon – steelhead trout, actually – roughly chopped, which makes all the difference, texture-wise. Doing it in the food processor would turn them into paste – and using a knife took all of five minutes to produce a loose mixture that barely held its shape as a patty, but cooked up nicely as one, turning golden and crusty in a hot cast iron skillet. In about five minutes. I’m on a bit of a burger bender these days. (For charity, right? It’s the least I could do. Really.) And while I do adore a good beefy burger, I was challenged to come up with some alternatives to the usual red meat – and I’m so glad I was, or I would never have known these exist. They’re moist and juicyContinue reading

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Sweet potatoes: I’m a fan. Also: butter, and maple syrup, and orange – getting them all together on one plate makes me happy. The warm orange-infused maple butter, which takes all of two minutes to get going in a small saucepan, could be drizzled over split roasted sweet potatoes, but grilling them adds a slightly charred, smoky flavour that seems well suited to fall and winter, even though grills tend to be summer appliances. Whether they’re labeled yams or sweet potatoes, go for the smaller, longer ones, so that they don’t take forever to cook through to the middle. All you need to do is toss them in a pot whole and cover them with water – you bring the lot to a boil and let it go for about half an hour, until the potatoes are tender. This part can be done ahead of time, if you want to get a head start on dinner, or have minimal prep work once the roast orContinue reading

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Bourbon pork tenderloin Collage
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Things are growing around here – no doubt because the regular rain showers interspersed with blasts of sun is taking care of the garden more consistently than I ever have. And having previously lived with a sad and severely balding back lawn, ravaged by kids and peed on by dogs, we’ve managed to bring it (almost) back to life with copious quantities of grass seed and a strategically placed monkey statue, rescued from a friend’s flooded basement and brought home to clean, to keep the birds from eating all of it. (The seed, that is.) Which is all to say it’s worth sitting in the back yard again this year. I was craving something sticky-sweet and grilled, preferably something made of pig, something like ribs, only leaner but no less sticky. Molasses and bourbon did the trick, along with fresh garlic and ginger and grainy mustard and soy sauce for saltiness. Molasses is often overlooked for savoury dishes, but I find myself using it moreContinue reading

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My friend and neighbour, Emily, has a single mint plant in front of her house that’s the size of a small shrubbery. She encourages me to grab handfuls of it if I’m ever walking by. Because she brought a few jars of beet preserves to me last week – pickled beets, beet relish and chutney – I pondered what I might make with mint that would go with the tangy beets, knowing she had the same plethora of mint and pickled beets at home too. And so I took a handful or two and whizzed it into a slurry with plain yogurt, the juice of a lemon (the zest would be great too), some ginger and spices; yogurt acts as a flavour carrier while tenderizing chicken – you can leave it in the fridge for a day to get to know each other, or freeze the lot – the marinade protects the chicken from freezer burn. Thread the chunks onto soaked bamboo skewers and theyContinue reading

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