Category Archives: Fish and Meat

Broiled Salmon with Shiitake-Honey Glaze

After a long string of unrelated career choices in my early youth, including a detective (ages 8-10), a freelance spy/mercenary who resembled the comic book hero Punisher (ages 10-11), a professional baseball player/owner of baseball card store (age 11), a writer of paranormal fiction (age 12), I finally decided on horticulture (ages 13-18). I was obsessed with plants. I filled my dad’s house with so many potted plants that the windows would fog up. I couldn’t eat a fruit without planting its seeds, or enjoy an avocado without removing the pit and placing it in a glass of water to entice its roots to grow. Our kitchen looked like a mad science laboratory and windowsills became expensive real estate.

Looking back, it was a little eccentric that I spent several minutes each day breathing on each houseplant, to give them more air; or that I flipped yearningly through plant books while my friends were reading Batman comics or Playboys. I knew the Latin name for every potted plant and became irritatingly pedantic when visiting friends, if I came across a neglected or ill specimen. Nitrogen deficiency, I would say; or don’t give this guy a south facing window – shade is preferable; or, your fern needs watering (with a condemning scowl). I didn’t get invited out much.

During my last year of high school I was given a shiitake log by someone who knew of my love of growing things. These logs are pretty remarkable if you’ve never seen one before. It is a small log that has been coated, I’m guessing, by spores from this delicious fungi. After a few weeks sitting in a cool damp place, mushrooms begin to grow on and off for several months. I hadn’t really been a huge lover of fungi until then, but there is something wonderfully meaty and exotic with shiitake. Ranging anywhere from $4 to $8 a pound, I don’t often buy these expensive ingredients; although they are always a welcome treat in my kitchen, especially in this ginger-shiitake glaze paired with salmon which I know you’ll love.

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Moroccan Beef Tagine with Honey and Raisins

Even before I had visited Marrakech, I had already tasted Moroccan tagine at a local Victoria restaurant and had become enamoured of the unmistakable, splendid tastes of this North African country. A trip to Morocco, however, will imbue any subsequent taste of its cuisine with rich and fond memories that greatly enhance each long-savoured bite.  When I now taste slow-cooked lamb or beef simmered in cinnamon, cumin and honey, or whenever I open up the lid of a hot tagine fresh from the oven, I imagine Marrakech – the magical, medieval city with its labrynthine alleys, with its fruit stalls and monumental date pyramids or its many wooden carts filled with fresh mint leaves, with its colourful tins of bulgur, lentils and dried beans, or its famous night market where each bodily sense of the observer is titillated.

Satisfying my olive craving

Night Market at Marrakech

I don’t eat a lot of beef at home, so tend to lean more towards cooking chicken tagine when in the mood for Moroccan. If I have the time, however, I thoroughly enjoy the robust taste of beef tagine cooked to slow perfection with raisins, honey and middle eastern spices. I remember once seeing this dish served with sauteed apples glazed with honey and cinnamon, to lend a pleasant tartness to the dish, so I’ve duplicated it here. I didn’t use a tagine to cook this dish, but you could have just as easily cooked this in a tagine in the oven or stovetop, instead of in a large saucepan.

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Breaded Halibut Dijonnaise

Halibut season started a few weeks ago and I couldn’t resist picking up two exquisite pieces from the seafood counter to celebrate. I recently vowed to cut down on seafood posts as this was starting to feel like the Plenty of Fish online dating website. The reality however is that the majority of my meals contain something from the sea and these fillets were too nice to pass up.

I wanted to coat the halibut with crushed almonds, similar to the pistachio crusted salmon that I made a few weeks ago, but unable to read my own chickenscratch on the crumpled Post-It note, I forgot the almonds, so we improvised with bread crumbs. If you have almonds, I suggest using them crushed, otherwise it was still delicious with the bread crumbs.

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Seared Tuna with Mango-Lime Mojo

I’ve finally found my Mojo. No, not the Austin Powers kind, but the saucy citrusy kind that originates from Cuba. It’s pronounced “mo-ho”, not “mo-jo”, the libido giving force made popular by shag carpet-chested Mike Myers, so you shouldn’t get too many strange looks when you tell people what you had for dinner as long as you say it right. Mojo is a tangy sauce made of citrus, garlic and traditionally lots of oil; though I’ve made a healthier version here with less oil and a welcome addition using my favourite fruit, mango. I love mangoes; I eat them dried, candied, juiced, frozen, in sorbets, and have even had them freshly fallen from a tree. From the small house in rural Thailand where I lived one summer, I remember hearing periodic bangs on the corrugated roofs of neighbours, which marked the sound of ripe mangoes being shaken from the trees by hungry children with long wooden sticks, clamouring for dessert.

This sauce is a delightful accompaniment to grilled pork, prawns or fish. I picked up tuna flank from the grocer this afternoon and marinated it in herbs and oil before sauteeing it very briefly, slicing and then serving with a generous drizzling of mojo.

Mojo is actually short for Mojito, which is unrelated to the drink – though the drink would be a perfect, refreshing beverage for this meal.  Continue reading


Shrove Tuesday Sole Amandine

Yes, another fish post. If you haven’t figured it out yet, red meat isn’t regularly featured at my house and I live on the West Coast where fresh seafood is in abundance.

My cleanse is now over, coinciding nicely with Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Tuesday to Christians and breakfast lovers – a worldwide pancake binge preceding the 40 days of Lent. I haven’t yet witnessed this on a global scale, although I imagine it looks similar to the free street-side pancake breakfast at the Calgary Stampede. This morning at work, we were spoiled with delicious mini pancakes smeared in butter and marmalade that someone brought in. I don’t celebrate Lent, and after a challenging single week of detox I don’t think I’d be very pleasant to be around on the 40th day.

I haven’t yet resorted to my old eating habits (i.e. 3 cups of coffee, baked goods, pasta and peanut butter straight from the jar) since coming off my cleanse. Wanting to gradually wean myself off the healthy regime of the past week so that my body doesn’t go into shock, I’ve decided on Sole Amandine for dinner, which is generally healthy…except for the buttery sauce in which it is practically poached. This is a French dish, so butter is to be expected in quantities quite ludicrous. I actually made Cod Amandine, as local fishermen apparently had a poor catch of sole this past week due to excessive waves – or so said the pimply teenager at the grocery store – but Sole Amandine sounds so much more melodic and intriguing.

If you celebrate Lent, good luck tomorrow…and we’ll see you in 40 days.  Continue reading


Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Maple and Pesto

My Cuisinart food processor has been getting a lot of action lately. With it I’ve discovered the splendours of homemade marinades and sauces by wildly pulsing together ginger, garlic and lemon juice with other random ingredients lurking in the recesses of my fridge. Last night I made a zesty, Cuban-inspired mango mojo sauce with grilled tuna flank, by pureeing mango with lemon, orange juice and hot pepper – Muy bueno!

Tonight, I’m searching for inspiration from the sea once more with this dish. It combines some of my favourite ingredients: salmon, maple syrup, pesto and pistachios. The pistachios have been beckoning me from the bottom shelf of my cupboard for a few months and although I originally intended pairing them with halibut, I couldn’t resist the beautiful and fresh salmon fillets that were on sale yesterday. Enjoy!

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Rascally Rabbit Pie

Or Wascally Wabbit Pie, if you can say it in an Elmer Fudd accent.

For over a week my friend Daniel and I had been putting our minds to a unique dish that we could cook up on our Sunday Night Test Kitchen and we both independently arrived at “rabbit”, which was an odd coincidence. Or maybe not. Last week was the start of Chinese New Year and also the Year of the Rabbit, which means that if you were born now you’d be moody, detached, self-assured and stubborn, or so I read. A Chinese-Canadian colleague assured me that eating a zodiac animal wouldn’t actually be offensive or sacrilegious, so we were safe to proceed with the meal without risking death threats from moody and detached newborns. Rabbit also seems a fitting choice for those of us who live in Victoria, where hospital grounds and university campuses are littered with so many Bambis and Thumpers that they resemble a Disney cartoon.  This has been of particular concern to the University of Victoria (a.k.a. Watership Down), afraid that the many rabbit warrens chiselled like refugee tunnels under the soccer field would give way during a game. The rabbits are also a huge distraction to students during exam time, with their cute antics and tennis-ball shaped babies. Instead of using the rabbits in the cafeteria as the mystery meat of the week, the University tackled this pest problem by shipping scores of bunnies to other locations, including a rabbit sanctuary in Texas.

In preparation for this meal, I didn’t sneak onto university grounds at night with carrots and a gym bag; instead I ordered two vaccuum-sealed, frozen rabbits from a farm in Quebec, which shipped to my local grocer here in British Columbia. They’re a little pricey (about $22 each), which is probably more than one might pay at the pet store for an actual living one.

The experience of eating rabbit was a little anticlimactic, although it tasted superb. I was expecting a taste that was gamey and new – a throwback to the meals our ancestors hunted and ate just a few generations ago. Instead, all I could think about was Hannibal Lector, comparing the taste to chicken. At dinner, Daniel recounted an anecdote about his grandmother growing up on a farm in rural Quebec. Her parents kept rabbits caged in the yard in order to feed the many hungry mouths when times were lean, although the children were lied to and told it was chicken. Apparently, even before Disney cartoons inculcated young minds into believing furry animals could sing showtunes and be our best friends, children still had an aversion to eating rabbit.

This recipe looks and tastes similar to chicken pot pie, although it’s made in a very traditional French Canadian way by baking the entire pot in the oven with a single pastry layer on top, instead of in double-crust pie form. Many pies, including my favourite Tourtiere or meat pie, were made this way in the 1800’s in Quebec. This meal is time intensive, but if you have 3 hours free with friends and have plenty of appetizers and wine handy, this will be enjoyable and unique to your guests. Bon Appetit! Continue reading