Sunday, April 29, 2012

Read this blog post (the oceans will thank you)

On the heels of another great event put on by the Vancouver Aquarium -- this one the Ocean Wise Tides of Change taster at Luma restaurant in Toronto, I got to thinking, as I do whenever the Ocean Wise crew comes to town, that we should all really be doing more.
For starters, I should be eating only sustainable fish and seafood, and in turn, should be developing more recipes to share with you that put tasty sustainable heroes at the centre of the plate. I’ve also put the Chatelaine test kitchen on notice, and going ahead we’re going to develop dishes using responsibly sourced fish and seafood products as much as possible.

I’ve been a longtime admirer of the cause. Having an Unsung Heroes dinner with David Suzuki a few years back was a great example of highlighting both the importance and the deliciousness of some virtually ignored species. After all, change has got to taste great or there will be no change. 

So, whether I’m bloodworming in Yarmouth or trying to understand what sustainable certification really means, or am taking the plunge in the icy waters of Norway, I’m always on the hunt for new and exciting oceanic treats.

The good news is, so far, the news is good: There are innovators out there bringing new species back from the brink and raising them in new, smart ways. 

Leafing through the handout from the Ocean Wise event at Luma, I learned that an estimated 90% of all large, predatory fish are gone from the world’s oceans and that we’re eating more seafood than ever before. At the same time, it’s heartening to know that 91% of Canadians want their seafood to be sustainable, and that Canada-wide purveyors are answering the call (sort of like Aquaman?

In Toronto there’s Hooked, Fishbar, The One that Got Away, and Off the Hook, while Vancouver has Blue Water CafĂ© (which gets top marks for its annual special Unsung Heroes menu), and Go Fish, while Victoria has Red Fish, Blue Fish – to name just a few. Ocean Wise has over 450 Canada-wide partners, so finding good eats shouldn’t be difficult: Just download the free Ocean Wise app to start making smart buying choices (or go to, and you’ll see that there’s much to learn and eat. 
And right now, that’s exactly what enjoying great fish and seafood boils down to. Education is key to successful sustainable cooking and eating.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Eat here: Hawker Bar

I know, I know, we're all sick of hearing about all of the groovy new restaurants opening up on Ossington, as if Ossington was the only street in Toronto and Toronto was the only city in Canada. But let me tell you about just one more. Actually, two more. I ate at two new Ossington restaurants this week and had distinctly different experiences at each.
First up, Yours Truly. I'm not going to go into too much detail here because we just had snacks and drinks. The cocktails were good. I highly recommend the John Candy, a winning mix of rye, maple, ginger, lemon and I think some bitters. But then I can't tell you about much else. Not because I was drunk, but because a half-hour later not only had I forgotten what I had eaten, but I had forgotten that I had even eaten at all. Not a great sign. That said, they also have a tasting menu and an admirable-sounding veg tasting menu too, so it wouldn't be fair of me to judge the place based a few bites of unremarkable snacks.
Next up, Hawker Bar. Not only do I remember everything I ate here, but I've been daydreaming about several delicious bites ever since Thursday. Only about a week old, the Singaporean-inspired menu is all texture and spice, hot and sticky (actually, incredibly hot, temperature-wise: Mind your mouth!) warming and cheerful. I'm not going to tell you what to eat, because you should really try everything that appeals (the hardest part is choosing), but what I will say is if you want a hot, fast meal with smiling service, fair prices and wooden stumps as seats, this is the place for you. Oh, and don't miss the chicken wings. (Tip: The resto link has photos of some of the dishes we ate. Also, they have takeout.) 
Get excited. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This just in: White asparagus

While many of us are caught up in this joyous time of springtime’s green asparagus, don’t forget about their tender, oft-forgotten albino kin, white asparagus. A few years ago I was in Germany in May, just in time for what they call Spargelsaison where it was all asparagus, all the time, and I never got sick of it.

With that taste memory in mind, I picked up a small bunch of white asparagus at my local grocery store this week (it was only $3; in my mind I always pegged white asparagus as being as expensive as lox), and then thinking back to a terrific side dish of butter-poached white asparagus that my family enjoyed at Nota Bene last year, I decided to make a quick batch of butter-glazed asparagus.

To make it, all you do is snap the rough ends off a 1lb bunch of cleaned white asparagus, get out a large skillet and add ¼ of water to it. Set it on high heat. When the water comes to a boil (this happens quickly), add the white asparagus and lower heat to medium. Cook for two minutes, then add 3 tbsp butter, a good pinch of sugar and a good pinch of salt. Keep the spears moving around in the pan and cook for an additional 6-8 minutes or until tender.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

On matzo and meatballs

There’s something about Passover, the Jewish holiday happening this week, that really speaks to me. For starters, culinarily speaking, it’s quite the challenge making food for a crowd based on a cracker; and I enjoy a challenge. I also like that for eight days of the year you really stand out as being Jewish, what with all the matzo sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs.

And if people thought I was annoying before, you should see me matter-of-factly explaining why we can only eat things made of ground-up matzo and not flour, even though matzo is made of flour, while waving around a piece of matzo shmeared with pareve margarine and 778 blackcurrent jam for effect. Hours of fun!

Geez, I guess I’m a little more into Passover than I thought, as I even found a bunch of blog posts related to the holiday here, here, and here, plus some ditties I did for Food & Wine magazine here, here, here, and here.

I hosted my first-ever seder this year, and along with the matzo ball soup, salads, salmon, brisket, roasted asparagus and potatoes (tip: when people offer to contribute to the seder, say yes), I made this fresh take on sweet and sour meatballs.

Whether you’re celebrating Passover or Easter or nothing at all, I think we can all agree that everybody loves a good meatball. It's the meat that binds.

Sweet & Sour Meatballs

(serves 12)


4lbs lean ground beef

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

6 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

2 cooking onions, peeled and roughly chopped

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped

1 pineapple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tbsp honey

4 tbsp ketchup

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

*Depending on the sweetness of your vegetables and pineapple you’ll want to adjust with more ketchup, vinegar, salt, etc. before serving in order to hit that perfect balance. Taste your food!


1. Season beef with salt and pepper and roll into 1-inch bite-sized meatballs.

2. Add prepped tomatoes, onion and carrot to a food processor and chop until smooth, then add pineapple and pulse so that it’s still a bit chunky. Add mixture to a very large pot, add oil, ginger, honey, ketchup, vinegar and salt and pepper, then bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, add meatballs, and cook, partially covered, for two hours. Serve will roasted potatoes or matzo.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

When nice nieces go vegan

Most of us have friends or family members who enthusiastically announce they have gone vegan, and in reaction to the big news all the rest of us can usually muster is a snort and an elaborate eye roll. Sometimes the veganism lasts a week – usually when they realize they can’t eat cheese and chocolate anymore – but it can also last for years.

Though I have altogether too many vegetarian friends, I have yet to befriend a long-term vegan. That said, my teenaged niece Madeline, recently decided to go vegan seemingly for ethical reasons. I gave her a week but she’s already a couple of months in. A happy offshoot is that she’s taking more control of the cooking process (seeing as this was her choice and she’s the right age to start cooking some of her own meals). So she’s whipping up dinners to suit her needs and tastes, and I’m a fan of that. Here’s a meal she prepared at the cottage during March Break, under the guidance of my mother, a Dietitian. After all, we don’t want a bunch of vegan teenagers growing up brittle boned and anemic because they love animals. Plan your vegan means accordingly.

Maddie’s Easy Vegan Tortilla Soup

(Makes 6 serving/ 8 cups)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 small sweet onion, diced

1 vegetable bouillon cube

5 cups boiling water

1 cup Israeli couscous

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup beans of your choice, such as cooked chickpeas, black beans or navy beans, rinsed and drained

500mL salsa

Tortilla chips and avocado garnish (optional)


Brown the onion in oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. When onion is browned, add couscous and stir. Add the water and bouillon cube and stir again (note: if you have 5 cups of vegetable stock on hand, use that instead of the bouillon cube and water). Let cook covered for 10-12 minutes until couscous is almost tender. Add corn, beans, and salsa and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes to finish cooking the couscous. Top with tortilla chips or avocado cubes and enjoy! Tip: This is even better the next day, though you may need to thin it with a bit of water.