Grilled Watermelon and Shrimp Salad Tofino Style

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As many of you will remember I spent some time on Vancouver Island in the summer of 2013. One of the places that we experienced, while on the island, was Tofino, British Columbia. This place is often referred to as the very west end of Canada.

Tofino had long been on my dream list of places to see. It is known for its rugged beaches, often filled with surfers catching waves. You can wander out on the sandy beaches feeling the energy of the ocean as it crashes against the shore. Travelers make their way to this rugged seaside town to watch the storms come in from the Pacific. There is a wild and remote feeling about Tofino, possibly because the road is long and winding and mountainous to get there, also because the coastline is relatively unspoiled.

Watermelon-and-Shrimp

Once you are there you can see a few well placed luxury inns on the beach but that is not the heart of Tofino. The heart of Tofino, to me, is the local food culture which is anything but fine dining. It is all about the Pacific style of using fresh and local ingredients to create amazing flavours. Food trucks are found in unusual spots and a few have made a name for themselves as the best places to east in this part of Vancouver Island.

One restaurant called the SoBo started as a food truck and has now become a restaurant in downtown Tofino. It has earned some very high praise from critics and travelers alike. The best news is that the owners have published a cookbook with a sampling of some wonderful recipes from their menus. The book is full of mouth-watering dishes with chapters featuring ideas for you next meal of breakfast, salad, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, appetizers and snacks, mains, sides, and desserts.

The book is nothing short of beautiful. Not only does it include vibrant shots of the food, it also includes some fabulous landscape and seascape photographs by Jeremy Koreski, a local photographer. It also features a foreword written by Sarah McLachlan, the wonderfully talented Canadian recording artist who has spent a fair bit of time experiencing the mysteries of Tofino.

I chose to feature this recipe from the book because grilling watermelon intrigued me. I was not sure if it would like the taste of warm grilled watermelon with grilled shrimp but I am pleased to tell you that it was a taste experience that I hope to repeat again and again. It was a perfect flavour combination and the result was a light and sumptuous salad.

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Grilled Watermelon and Shrimp Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 small watermelon cut into 1 inch thick wheels, skin removed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. olive oil for grilling
1 cucumber, sliced to 1/4 inch rounds and refrigerate to keep cold
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tsp. salt
12-20 large shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds toasted

Directions:

Preheat BBQ or grill pan to high.

Brush the watermelon lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking. Lay the slices directly on the grill racks and grill for 2 to 3 minutes. The slices should be easily lifted from the grill. Turn them over and grill on the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Lightly salt then remove them from the grill and cut into 1 inch sized chunks.

In a large bowl gently toss the warm watermelon with the cold cucumber, mint, lime juice and salt and the 1/4 cup olive oil.
Lightly brush the shrimp with olive oil and grill for 30 seconds per side or until they turn pink or red. Divide the salad between 4 serving plates, top with the shrimp and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

Recipe from the Sobo Cookbook by Lisa Ahier with Andrew Morrison

I bought mine here:

http://www.amazon.ca/Lisa-Ahier-Cookbook-Restaurant-Canadian/dp/B00IBP7PCM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1407805714&sr=8-2&keywords=the+sobo+cookbook

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Shrimp and Pineapple Stir-Fry with Coconut Rice

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Spring is coming!

At this time of year I start to look forward to spring. I have had my fill of snow, slush, freezing rain and cold.

One way that I get myself geared up is to start planning some spring activities that will get me out of the apartment and feeling good. I stopped in ay my local running store and got fitted for a pair of shoes. Rather than staring at them and wishing for sunny days I have started climbing the stairs at my office building. I work on the 10th floor so this is a good start to my fitness plan. The next challenge will be to climb the 23 floors to my apartment. Hopefully, by the time I am ready for that challenge, the spring weather will be here.

The Toronto Bike Show is on this weekend and I have been dreaming of a new bicycle all winter. I plan to go and check out the different hybrid bikes that are discounted as last year’s models. Those of you who know about my current bike, Victoria, will be surprised that I am even thinking of an upgrade. Victoria is a lovely bike, after all. I almost feel as though I am cheating on her by looking at newer models.

I am also trading in my beautiful car, Grace. I named her after the late Princess Grace because she is Monaco Blue, sophisticated and elegant. My lease is up and I have decided that instead of sporty elegance I really need a car that I can haul stuff around in. Practicality is winning over, this time.

Spring is time for new beginnings. For me that will mean a new car, possibly a new bicycle and hopefully a fresh attitude.

Another way to get ready for spring is to eat lighter meals. Many of my friends and family escaped winter by heading for tropical destinations so I thought it would be fun to feature a tropical recipe that creates that island feeling. I found this one in a Fine Cooking Cook Fresh magazine. Not only is it light and healthy, it looks so inviting on the plate.

 

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Shrimp and Pineapple Stir-Fry with Coconut Rice

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups jasmine rice
3/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup golden rum
1/3 fresh lime juice
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 1/2 inch thick rounds of peeled and cored pineapple cut into 8 wedges
1/3 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

Directions

In a microwave safe 8-10 cup bowl, combine the rice, coconut milk, and 3/4 tsp. salt with 2 cups water. Microwave on high, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Let stand in the microwave until the water is absorbed, 5-15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the rum, lime juice, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper until the cornstarch dissolves.

Pat the shrimp dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat, until shimmering hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until partially cooked, about 2 minutes. Add the pineapple and continue to stir-fry until heated through. Whisk the sauce, add to the skillet, and stir until the shrimp are just opaque in the centre and coated with the sauce.

Stir in the mint and remove from heat. Serve on top of a bed of rice.

Recipe from Fine Cooking Cook Fresh-Winter 2014 Magazine

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Seared Scallops and Freshly Picked Peas with Bacon and Mint

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Last weekend my daughter and I decided to go vegetable picking. There are a number of farms around the city that allow you to pick your own fresh fruit and vegetables as they come into season.

This is one way that you can be sure that you are eating locally and that you are supporting your local farmers. For many years I picked strawberries and made homemade jam. I had never tried picking fresh peas, until this year.

It was not difficult; you just look for pods that are fat and ripe. Those are the ones that are holding lovely, plump, sweet peas. I tasted them fresh from the vine and they were so sweet and delicious I could hardly wait to make something exciting with them.

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Another thing that I had never tried was cooking scallops. For some reason cooking seafood is intimidating to me. I think my Scottish meat and potatoes upbringing is to blame for this. My mother never cooked fish when I was a child.

Nevertheless, I am determined to learn how to cook all sorts of foods so I dug out this recipe from my new Curtis Stone cookbook, What’s for Dinner? and followed it exactly. I figured that if it did not turn out well, I could blame the recipe.

I am happy to say that the sweet peas, bacon and mint perfectly complimented the scallops. The cooking instructions were very clear and my scallops were a hit. It is a great feeling when you take on a new challenge and achieve success.

This cookbook is worth a look. It has terrific selection of recipes that are organized by the days of the week. Chapter titles like Motivating Mondays, Thrifty Thursdays, and Five-Ingredient Fridays list meals that will inspire you to cook, no matter how busy you week gets.

There are 286 pages filled with mouth watering recipes and wonderful photos. I was once told that a good benchmark for buying a cookbook is if you can count at least 10 recipes in it that you want to make. I am sure that there are more than ten recipes from this book in my future.

I would love to hear from you about what foods you love to cook fresh from the farm.

seared-ScallopsSeared Scallops and Peas with Bacon and Mint

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas (from 2 pounds peas in the pods)
3 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut crosswise into ¼ inch strips
½ cup coarsely chopped shallots
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 large sea scallops, tough side muscle removed and patted dry
2 tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the peas and cook for about 2 minutes, or just until they are bright green and tender. Drain and transfer the peas to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet.

Add the shallots to the skillet and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes or until softened. Add the peas and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes, or until they are heated through. Stir in the bacon and mint. Season to taste, with salt and pepper. Keep warm over very low heat.

Meanwhile, season the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat another large heavy skillet over high heat until it is very hot. Add the olive oil, then add the scallops and cook for about 2 minutes more, or until the other side is golden brown but the scallops are still translucent when pierced in the center with the tip of a small knife. Transfer the scallops to paper towels to drain briefly.

Divide the pea mixture and scallops among four dinner plates and serve.

Recipe adapted from What’s for Dinner? by Curtis Stone

Mediterranean Tuna Salad Sandwiches

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Do you ever have one of those days where it just starts off with a bang?

When I got up this morning I knew that I had to be at a meeting for 9 AM in downtown Toronto. I left in plenty of time to catch the Subway and be there with time to spare; or so I thought.

When I got to the station there was an announcement that trains between Bloor and Union stations were not running and all of the southbound passengers were being diverted to my usual connecting station of St. George, instead. That meant that thousands of people would be crammed onto one platform in the hopes of getting stuffed like sardines into a train to get downtown.

Well I thought I was smart. I planned to get off of the train one stop earlier and take a bus instead. I practically ran out of the station and up the stairs to catch the bus and turned to my left to see a long line of people who also thought they were smart. The line went on for at least 4 blocks.

I quickly looked for a cab, but no luck. I started walking. After a 20 minute brisk walk to my destination I arrived at the meeting at the same time as the other party; both of us 10 minutes late. Well that was not so bad; until I started having hot flashes from all of the exercise while we were in the middle of a serious discussion.

It is on days like this when I close my eyes and dream of being somewhere else. Today in my dream, I was sitting along the port in Cassis, France breathing in the fresh Mediterranean air and enjoying a leisurely lunch in a café. I could see the deep blue water and smell the gentle breeze as I lingered over a lunch of seafood and light salad. Sitting there sipping a glass of fine French wine and watching the world go by is so soothing and civilized.

I hear the chatter of local fishermen and sailors as they make ready to sail. I see hilltop villas surrounded by exquisite gardens overlooking the little harbour. The waves are caressing the rocky shoreline and then gently washing away. Life in Cassis seems very simple compared to life at home.

I cannot get on a plane every time I need a break, but if I close my eyes I can dream.

I dedicate this amazing Mediterranean Tuna Salad recipe to the rest of you dreamers out there.

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Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 6 oz. can of tuna, drained well
1 cup artichoke hearts, drained
¼ cup black olives, sliced
1/8 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 baguette

Directions:
Mix all of the ingredients, except the bread, in a mixing bowl. Slice the baguette in half lengthwise and then slice each piece in quarters. Spoon mixture onto each piece and serve.

Recipe adapted from a recipe on wholefoodmarket.com

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Seared Tilapia with Orange Salsa

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It’s that time of year when I start trying to shed any extra weight that I may have packed on during the winter even if it is just a few pounds. The heavy comfort foods that I craved in winter no longer seem appealing. I have started craving salads and fruit and light dinners again.

I am spending time shopping for spring clothes and getting excited about the warmer weather. I love to get outdoors in the evening when the sun is still out. We miss having the sunshine at night during the winter and when it does come back I try to make the most of it. That can mean walking 5km home from work or going for a bike ride or taking part in other sports activities. The thing is; I like to stay active.

This Seared Tilapia with Orange Salsa is a fast and easy recipe that makes a nice dinner for guests or family. The Orange Salsa can be spiced up by adding some chopped chilis but I prefer it to be milder.

Seared Tilapia with Orange Salsa

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

4 medium seedless navel oranges
½ red onion, diced small
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. lime juice
Sea salt
4 5 oz. tilapia filets
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the ends of the oranges to expose a circle of flesh. Stand each orange on an end and slice off the rest of the peel, including the white pith, in strips following the curve of the orange. Working over a medium bowl, carefully cut on both sides of each orange segment to free of from the membranes. Then squeeze the membranes over the bowl to collect the juice. Cut the segments into 4 pieces and return to bowl.
Add the onion, cilantro, lime, and 1 tsp. salt and gently stir to combine. Let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.

Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Cook fillets 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side.

Transfer to dinner plates and top with salsa using a slotted spoon and serve.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine- issue no. 121

Five-Spice Glazed Salmon with Sesame Green Beans

I have been really busy lately. So busy, that I have almost missed the spring flowers that are popping up all over the city. Apparently, there are some beautiful cherry blossoms in High Park and the boulevards downtown are starting to pop with the colour of tulips and daffodils. It is my busiest season at work so getting home in time to enjoy the outdoors is not always possible.

Tonight I decided to make it happen. I saw the sunshine, the flowers and the trees. I felt the breeze on my face as I walked and I was smiling. What a great day!

When I got home, I decided the check a few of my cookbooks to find some quick, healthy dinners to get me through this busy time. I found this recipe in one of my Fine Cooking magazines. It is an easy one pan recipe that can be made in less than 30 minutes. The chinese five-spice mix and soy sauce create an Asian style salmon dish that is very tasty.

Five-Spice Glazed Salmon with Sesame Green Beans

Ingredients

1/4 cup honey
4 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1-1/2 tsp. five-spice powder
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Four 6-oz. salmon fillets, skin on
Non-stick cooking spray
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
2 tsp. canola oil
1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp. lemon juice

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk the honey, soy sauce, five-spice powder, and garlic. Put the salmon skin side down on a large plate and pour the honey mixture over it. Flip the fillets so they are skin side up. Let the fish marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature.

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss the green beans with the canola and sesame oils. Arrange the beans on one half of the prepared baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the salmon skin side down on the other half of the baking sheet. Brush the salmon with any remaining marinade from the plate. Broil the salmon and green beans for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, toss the green beans with tongs, and reposition the salmon pieces as needed so that they cook evenly. Continue to broil until the salmon is just cooked through and the beans are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes.

Toss the green beans with the sesame seeds and lemon juice and serve.

Recipe from the Best of Fine Cooking Magazine-Cook Fresh edition

Blackened Salmon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick’s Blackened Salmon

When I remember all of the wonderful places that I have been to and the amazing food that I have tasted over the past year, my thoughts return to a few extraordinary meals. One of these special meals was a Blackened Salmon that I had last summer at an anniversary party with my friends.

My good friend Rick is a retired data specialist who has a passion for cooking. When he retired from his civil service career in government he started taking classes at Toronto’s George Brown College in the School of Culinary Arts. His repertoire of great recipes is constantly growing to include all of the classics in addition to many great grilling favourites.

Whenever one of Rick’s friends has a party they ask Rick to make his amazing Blackened Salmon on the grill. I was lucky enough to see first hand how he made this memorable dish and of course, to taste it.

The moist, pink salmon surrounded by the blackened Cajun spices gives an explosion of flavour with every bite.

Rick’s Blackened Salmon

Ingredients

6-8 fresh, skinless salmon steaks or fillets 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
½  C. Butter
1   Tbsp. chili powder
½  Tbsp. cumin
½  Tbsp. garlic powder
¼  Tsp. dried Wasabi
2   Tbsp.ground paprika
1   Tbsp.ground cayenne pepper
1   Tbsp. onion powder
2   Tsp. sea salt
½  Tsp. ground white pepper
½  Tsp. ground black pepper
¼  Tsp. dried basil
¼  Tsp. dried oregano
¼  Tsp. dried thyme

Directions

In a bowl, mix the spices. Melt the butter in a large pan.

Dip the salmon into the butter, remove the salmon and sprinkle generously with the spice mixture. Place salmon steak in a large baking sheet. Cover with foil and let sit overnight in the refrigerator

When it is time to cook, preheat a large, heavy skillet over high heat on the grill until it is almost white hot.

Place salmon on the skillet, butter side down, cook until blackened, 2 to 5 minutes. Turn salmon, and continue cooking and additional 2 to 3 minutes until blackened and fish is easily flaked with a fork. Do not over cook.

Cooking Class in St-Remy De Provence

On a recent trip to France a few of us decided to treat ourselves to an overnight stay at Domaine de Valmouriane which is a small country inn outside Saint Remy de Provence.

The inn is known for its charming rooms, lovely grounds, terrific cuisine and impeccable service. When we stayed we took a cooking class from the inn’s chef. It was great fun since only one of our group was an accomplished cook. That evening we dined in the inn’s dining room on the dishes that we had prepared.

It was a great way to learn French cooking from a French chef while enjoying a holiday in one of the nicest areas of Provence.

The recipes for our dinner are following:

Stuffed Sea Bass with Fennel (Petit Loup farci d’une Compotée de Fenouil) with Mixed Rice

1 lb. Sea Bass or white fish
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1/2 lemon
olive oil
2 tomatoes
1/2c Noilly Prat
Mixed rice (white, brown and red)

De-scale and cut the head off of Sea Bass.
Cut open the belly of the Sea Bass, clean and de-bone.
Take the ends off the fennel cut in half, core and dice into small pieces.
Put the garlic, shallot, salt and pepper and fennel in a pan and saute in olive oil for about 20 minutes until clear.
Take out of the pan and refrigerate.
Stuff the sea bass with the fennel mixture.
String it up with three ties (6 inches) evenly apart.
Cook in pan with quartered tomatoes around the fish, add the Noilly Prat and a little water.
Roast for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile cook the mixed rice.
Keep fish warm under foil.
Puree the tomatoes in mixer with some olive oil for sauce for fish.
Put fish on plate on top of sauce, add a slice of lemon on top with a piece of chive for garnish.

Source: L’Ecole Gourmande au Domaine de Valmouriane

 

Eggplant Papeton

5 eggplants
4 eggs
1 clove garlic
salt
pepper
olive oil

Cut the eggplants lengthwise.
Score and salt them. Drizzle with olive oil.
Cook in the oven at 200°C for 45 minutes.
When it’s cooked, remove the skin of the eggplant.
Mix them in the blender with the eggs and the garlic.
Add salt and pepper.
Line the loaf pan with the plastic wrap, and pour the mixture in this dish.
Cook in the oven at 120°C for 30 minutes in a double boiler or steamer.

Topping

5 chopped tomatoes
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped
2c olive oil

Mix all of the topping ingredients except the oil together.
Boil 2 cups of olive oil and pour over tomato mixture and let sit for 1 hour.
Drain oil and serve tomato mixture on top of sliced eggplant loaf.

Source: L’Ecole Gourmande au Domaine de Valmouriane
 

 

Figs Poached in Red Wine

4 figs
1 bottle red wine
2c Vermouth
1/2 cinnamon stick
3/8c sugar

In a large pot boil the mixture of red wine, cinnamon and sugar.
Add the figs to the pot and let poached for 2-3 minutes at low temperature. Leave them in the pot to marinate.
Take figs out of wine mixture with a slotted spoon.
Slice figs in four just halfway down.
Serve with vanilla iced cream or sorbet in middle of fig.

Source: L’Ecole Gourmande au Domaine de Valmouriane