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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 particularContinue reading

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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’sContinue reading

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‘Tis the season for garden parties. My neighbour-friend has one of the very best back yards in the world – small and brimming with herbs, food and flowers, a fence made of repurposed pallets, hung with old tires with waterfalls of flowers cascading out of them. But mostly it’s the lights she strung up that start to glow as it gets dark, and the friends with guitars, chatting and strumming, and the tables covered with food because everyone brought something to eat. When I have to bring something to a party, I lean toward baked cheese dips, because they’re the very best to share with friends. And because S lives just two doors down, I baked mine in my cast iron pan and walked it over with a tea towel wrapped around the handle. It was devoured in under five minutes, was perfect with gin and tonics and prosecco drizzled with rhubarb syrup, and I came home to email everyone the recipe.

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Yes! Because it’s officially summertime (yes, I know it’s still 8 degrees some places – sorry about that) and there will need to be picnics, and why not pack up some kimchi pancakes and a wee jar of dipping sauce to nibble in the grass? The thing about picnicking, besides being awesome, is that really most food is portable, and you don’t need to stick to baguettes and cheese and cold pheasant, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I had a big jar of kimchi in my fridge that wasn’t going to eat itself, and since there are not a ton of opportunities to use kimchi from day to day (I know there are, it’s just not one of my default condiments), I decided to use a bunch of it in a batch of pancakes. Which, by the way, are different and delicious, even if you don’t love kimchi.

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Spring has been crazy early this year, and now so is asparagus – by like a month. They started picking mid-April at Edgar Farms by Innisfail, and the norm is around the middle of May. It’s a short window – they typically pick (by hand, from their own homemade motorized picking carts) from mid-May until the end of June, so at this time of year I eat as much asparagus as I can handle. Our sunny days and cool nights make for particularly sweet asparagus with purply tips – I know I’ve said it before, but just a reminder: thinner isn’t necessarily better. Thick stalks are every bit as sweet – you just don’t want the bendy and woody ones. And YES – they are fab on a pizza. You don’t even have to bother shaving them into thin ribbons, although that does look pretty. Toss them on whole!

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Food on a stick, right? Feels like summer. The thing I love most about satay is that it makes me feel on the ball – it provides an excuse to buy meat in a bigger (read: cheaper) package, then divvy it up, slicing half to freeze in a quick marinade that will protect it from freezer burn. It goes ahead and marinates in the freezer until you’re ready for it, and thaws quickly on account of already being in pieces. And then cooks in just a few minutes, too. Also? You can dip them in peanut sauce. I would happily dip a pencil in peanut sauce. I’m usually a thigh girl; skinless, boneless chicken breasts don’t do much for me, but they do work well here if you’re a fan. Chicken thighs have more flavour, but are trickier to work with – cut them into chunks or strips and thread them on any which way. There’s no need to keep them neat, and in factContinue reading

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I am a fan of the onion ring. Done well, they’re glorious things, crisp and golden, with a sweet onion that hopefully doesn’t slither out when you bite into it. I rarely order them, unless I know they’re going to be good – it’s a high fat investment for something sub-par. And I rarely make them at home, but once in awhile I do – when there are people around to share, and I have a few nice, sweet onions that I don’t want to smother in the bottom of a soup or stew. They’re simple to make, and you only need about an inch of oil in the bottom of a small pot – there’s no need to heat vats of oil or invest in a deep fryer. They’re cheap – and look what you get. Just-fried and paper towelled, showered with salt and brought straight to the table – with a quickly stirred together aioli of lemon juice, mayo and mustard – willContinue reading

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Forever ago, when I was at art college, the school cafeteria sold thick slabs of cheese toast for a dollar. It was about all I could afford, which was convenient because it was also what I loved the most. Open faced grilled cheese. It reminded me of my mom’s tuna melts, minus the tuna, and my grandma’s hot dog melts on hamburger buns that would go all crackly in the oven. Cheese toast is perhaps as comforting as it’s possible to get. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you need a recipe for – and yet it’s so much more than just cheese on toast.

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Veggies love heat – especially the intense heat of the grill, cast iron skillet or oven (or yes, deep fryer) that’s hot enough to caramelize their sugars (vs the heat of a pot of water, which historically has boiled poor Brussels sprouts to the point of being grey and spreadable). Quickly, crisply-fried Brussels sprouts are taking over restaurant menus, and I love them all. Roasting is easier to do at home, of course, although if you don’t mind i getting a bit splattery, you can do it in a shallow pan of oil. And so after W was invited to a friend’s house for dinner and we made an impromptu escape to Anju on Friday for gochujang wings, Korean fried chicken and Brussels sprouts in lemongrass and fish sauce that are so good, I rummaged around the fridge and came up with enough B. sprouts to give it a go at home.

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