Pan-fried Rainbow Trout

Just a quick pop in to say hello and share a plate of fish that I made this morning on the Eyeopener – to celebrate the fact that fishing season is open in Alberta, and pink and green things are finally budding and blooming on the trees in the back yard. Spring may arrive yet.

I love talking about how easy it is to cook fish – so many people think of it as a complex culinary challenge, when really it’s about fast as food gets. Particularly when you start with thin filets of whitefish, which take approximately two minutes per side to cook in a hot pan. You need do nothing to them but season with salt and pepper, or drag them through a shallow dish of flour seasoned with same (or with seasoning salt, if you shake that way) before cooking them in a hot pan. Butter or ghee (clarified butter) is best for flavour, I think – but the really fun part, the part that makes you feel like you’re cooking, comes at the end when you add a splash of white wine or a squeeze of lemon to the pan, perhaps with a spoonful of capers, or a roughly chopped juicy tomato, perhaps with a few chopped olives. The idea is to loosen all the browned bits in the bottom of the pan, which you could even do with an extra dab of butter. And by doing it you make a quick pan sauce, which takes approximately a minute and provides a disproportionate amount of satisfaction, especially as you drape it over your perfectly cooked filets.
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Cereal doughnuts 1

Cereal is the new It ingredient. Sweet and crunchy, sometimes loaded with what are now known as “cereal marshmallows” and trendy in and of themselves, its retro appeal has made it a key ingredient in everything from marshmallow squares to ice cream sundaes. As a kid, I begged for the sweet stuff, but never got it – we were stuck with plain Cheerios (which, surprise! I still love) and anticipated a box of our choice on camping trips or our birthdays. These days fancy cereals have become more of a special treat or late night snack, and somewhat of an obsession for W. In London, we scouted out both locations of the Cereal Killer Cafe, where you can order from a wall of imported cereals, choose toppings and flavoured milks, and take your bowl to the back room, where they have tables and chairs, tube TVs and even single beds with cartoon sheets you can sit cross-legged on to dive in. (It’s all about the ambiance.)

Cereal doughnuts 7

Years ago we went to Portland, and made the pilgrimage to Voodoo Doughnuts, famous for their over-the top doughnuts, some with crunchy cereal loaded on top of the glaze like sweet barnacles. And a few weeks ago, the Calgary Underground Film Festival had their annual all-you-can-eat cereal and cartoon Saturday morning, and the buffet of cereals combined with a lineup of vintage cartoons from the 60s, 70s and 80s reminded me of how singularly special weekend mornings were, when you were young enough to be free of work and decision-making stresses, and being pre-internet were subject to whomever scheduled the TV programming for the three channels that were available.

Cereal doughnuts 4

My friends and I would set our alarms and run down the street to each others’ houses in our PJs, pillows in hand, to spend as many hours as possible watching cartoons and eating bottomless bowls of cereal. It was the highlight of our weeks. (I’m fairly sure some of my friends were chosen based on their parents’ cereal shopping habits.) I explained to W how once the cartoons wound down at around noon, that was it – there was no option to go watch something else on YouTube or iTunes.

Cereal doughnuts 6
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canmore mountain range

I love driving to the mountains. Especially when the temperatures finally reach the twenties and everything starts to turn green again, and particularly when I’m heading there for the kick-off party for Canmore Uncorked – truly one of the best food festivals I’ve ever been to. We most often pass through Canmore en route to Banff or the Mt Engadine Lodge, often stopping for coffee and pastries at Le Fournil, but rarely is Canmore the destination. I was invited to come judge the kick-off party for Canmore Uncorked Food & Drink Festival yesterday, and spent the night so I could poke around town a bit more. Truly, Canmore Uncorked is one of the best food festivals I’ve been to – a celebration that includes over 30 locally owned restaurants and some pretty fab unique dining experiences.

Canmore uncorked whitehall

The opening bash had four teams of chefs, led by Neil McCue of Whitehall, Bill Alexander of Grey Eagle Resort, Anthony Rabot of Market Bistro and Trevor Whitehead of Hogshead (who was also the 2016 Uncorked Chef of the Festival) compete with dishes inspired by French, British, Canadian and indigenous cuisine, all with wine and cocktail pairings. The dishes were exceptional, and Bill’s indigenous team from Grey Eagle took home the trophy with applewood smoked elk rack and beetroot rhubarb compote, cheese and potato stuffed fry bread and pickled carrot ribbons with carrot top pesto.

Grey Eagle Elkcanmore uncorked

I love food festivals that encourage eaters to try new places with multi-course set menus at eateries around town (I want the full experience, not just sample-sized bites), and over the next 11 days of Canmore Uncorked (it runs May 3-14), over 30 restaurants will offer three course menus for $22, $33 and $44 – W and I popped into the pub at the Georgetown Inn (again, a place we had only ever driven past – more on that later) for fish and chips, with a starter and sticky toffee pudding for dessert, for $22. There are also various deals and experiences to be had around town – some are free, others are $5 or $10.
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Puffed wheat squares 2

This feels like a bit of a copout, but I’ve been meaning to mix up a batch of puffed wheat squares (a very prairie thing) and eat the whole pan myself for awhile now. And I think if anyone came across a plate of these on the kitchen counter, they’d eat them.

I’d like to say I grew up eating puffed wheat squares, but I didn’t – hopefully W will not suffer the same fate.

Puffed wheat squares 10

I’d make them more often if puffed wheat was a thing I normally kept in the house, but when I think to buy a bag, I remember that a panful takes about ten minutes to stir together. Well worth it.
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roasted-tomato-soup-1

Even though buds are popping out in the back yard as we speak, I’m in a comfort food state of mind – and really, for many of us grilled cheese and tomato soup are about as nostalgic as it gets. I got it in mind awhile ago to take the gooey toasted bread that typically lids a baked French onion soup and apply it to tomato soup using cheddar, and save us all the trouble of dunking our grilled cheese sandwich into our soup. I mean, look at it.
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Patty melts 8

I partnered with Jarlsberg to bring you this cheesy goodness.

I’ve seen mention of patty melts here and there, and each time I see one I wonder why it is not number one on my all-time favourite foods list. A mash-up (truly) of grilled cheese and burger – two of my favourite things, yet mysteriously missing from restaurant menus (at least in my vicinity), and not something I’ve clued in on enough to attempt to make of my own accord. I’ve been meaning to rectify that, and Jarlsberg came along and gave me reason to finally jump in.

Jarlsberg-wedge

A patty melt, if you’re unfamiliar, is an American thing – I’m not sure of its origins, but won’t bother Wikipedia-ing it because it doesn’t much matter – all that matters is that onions are caramelized, a burger patty is smash-cooked in your skillet afterward, and it’s all piled between two slices of bread (to make it grillable) with plenty of meltable cheese to glue the whole thing together. Jarlsberg is about as melty-gooey as they get, with a mild, buttery, nutty flavour that goes so well with the beef and onions. I stuck with the traditional rye bread, not wanting to stray too far on my first try, but you could use just about any good-quality, sturdy loaf you like. (You just don’t want the slices to be unmanageably big, or for the insides to have too many holes.)

Patty melts 7

Can I walk you through it, instead of laying out a recipe? Because you don’t need precise measurements and instructions any more than you would for a grilled cheese sandwich.
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Lunar rhubarb cake 9

This lunar rhubarb cake is a thing – do you know of it? It has made the rounds of Canadian kitchens for decades and generations, far before the internet and Pinterest made it easier to share, back when great aunts and neighbours scribbled down the formula for that cake they always make that’s so good. Everyone seems to remember this.

Lunar rhubarb cake 8

It’s called lunar cake because its surface resembles the pocked surface of the moon, only in this case it becomes irregular and uneven because of the fruit and buttery brown sugar that sinks into the top. (Any fruit will work here – I love these recipes that you can use no matter what’s in season. I already can’t wait for plums.) I’d heard of it but never made one, thinking it was the same sort of fruit-topped cake I’d made dozens of versions of, but when it popped up in the new cookbook by Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller, whose lives I would quickly adopt if I could just dial back 20 years or so, who hopped in a car and ate their way across Canada and then compiled their journey in FEAST: An Edible Road Trip, I knew I had to give it a go. (Also, I’m still trying to use up last year’s epic stash of frozen rhubarb before this year’s crop starts to spring from the ground.)

Lunar rhubarb cake 7

Spoiler alert: this is much better than any like-minded cakes I’ve baked in the past. Of course Elizabeth Baird knew what she was doing when she took it out and brushed it off for the masses back in 1989.
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pork-lettuce-wraps

We took off for Tofino for spring break – a quick trip shortened considerably by a bout of pneumonia (I know!), and with my limited appetite and the abundance of good food to be had out there, I wound up not cooking much. But it occurred to me that these have been sitting in my drafts folder, not shared due to lack of photos, which is a shame because pork lettuce wraps are fast and easy and insanely good, and fit the bill if you have to come up with something gluten or dairy free, or to eat with your hands in front of the TV (but you still want it to have some sort of nutritional value). I cook the ground pork (cheap!) and veggies in a skillet, add enough hoisin sauce and cilantro to make it taste good, scrape it into a bowl and stick it on the table with a head of lettuce (if you’re feeling fancy, separated into leaves) – it’s also the best thing, besides Cheezies, to have on the table when you’re playing cards or Scrabble or working on a puzzle. (All spring break things, especially when your spring break involves snow and/or rain.)
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One egg cake

When I was a kid, maybe 9, I had a cupcake company. (I know, I was way ahead of myself.) I took out a $20 loan from my mom, bought ingredients and labeled them, and made the One Egg Cake out of The Joy of Cooking, and turned the batter into cupcakes to sell to neighbours on our street. After my loan was paid back, I think I made $7. (Most of the profits were eaten up.)

One egg cakes 3

I still have a soft spot (OK, many) for homemade cupcakes with straight-up buttercream frosting, applied in no particularly fancy order, just spread on with a knife. I think of the one-egg cake often, but have never revisited it – until late this afternoon, when I really really just needed some cake. And a short distraction from the computer. I stood and stared at the mixer beating butter, sugar, eggs, flour, milk – this is as basic a formula as they get – then poured the batter into tins, slid them into the oven and returned to the computer. No matter how gloomy a day you’re having, it’s brightened by the smell of vanilla cake baking in the middle of the afternoon.

One egg cakes 2
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