Category Archives: Fish and Meat
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.
Leave a comment | tags: ginger, healthy, Salmon, shiitake, shiitake glaze, shiitake log | posted in Asian, Fish and Meat
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.
Leave a comment | tags: beef, beef tagine, honey, lamb, marrakech, moroccan, raisins, Tagine | posted in Fish and Meat, Moroccan
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.
2 Comments | tags: breaded halibut, dijonaise sauce, fish recipes | posted in Fish and Meat
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
Leave a comment | tags: austin powers, cuban food, mango, mojito, mojo, recipe, seafood, thailand, tuna | posted in Fish and Meat
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
Leave a comment | tags: almonds, cod, fish recipes, lent, shrove tuesday, sole, sole amandine | posted in Fish and Meat
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!
5 Comments | tags: maple syrup recipes, pesto, pistachios, Salmon, seafood | posted in Fish and Meat
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
1 Comment | tags: chicken pot pie, parsnips, pastry dough, pie, rabbit, rabbit pie, turnips | posted in Breads and Quickbreads, Fish and Meat, Pies
I was digging around some old photographs yesterday and came across a photo of a family halibut fishing trip from 3 years ago. It was the first time I had ever gone fishing, unless you count the time at Montreal’s Atwater Market when I was really young, where I hooked a trout from a tank with a toy rod. The halibut experience was different, needless to say, and more thrilling than a plastic pool of water and a Bugs Bunny reel. I had never seen a halibut outside of a grocery seafood section, so was surprised and a little mortified when a massive, prehistoric-looking beast latched onto our line off of Vancouver Island. I felt like Quint from Jaws on board the Orca and the fish’s violent thrashing on the surface had me jokingly humming the dramatic “dah duh, dah duh,” much to the annoyance of others. It took two grown men (while I watched) to slowly reel the creature aboard.
From that fishing expedition I had nearly a year’s worth of frozen halibut. After six months, my appreciation for this “chicken of the sea” was waning from over-indulgance, so I started giving some away to friends or bringing large slabs of fish to BBQs. I haven’t caught any fish since, but my appreciation for halibut has been renewed.
Inspired by some delicious west coast catering from Bruce’s Kitchen restaurant at a Saltspring Island wedding last weekend, I decided to make this halibut dish served on a bed of kale, apples and polenta. I only recently discovered the wonders of kale and polenta, but plan to use these more regularly as a healthy and hearty side dish. Polenta is not fussy at all to make and is a nice replacement for the traditional mashed potato side dish. Continue reading
4 Comments | tags: apple, bacon, halibut, kale, polenta, seafood, side dish | posted in Fish and Meat, Side Dishes, Vegetarian
I don’t know what it’s like where you come from, but here in Victoria, British Columbia we have seen some strange health trends over the past few years (Vancouverites, I know you’ll agree): a cult-like obsession with yoga and form-fitting Lululemon pants, a substantial market of people who are willing to pay over $6 for a small loaf of organic bread containing enough seeds to keep the local bird population thriving through the winter…and then there is Sushimania, where the health-conscious pay through the nose for rice, seaweed and fish that the chef was too lazy to cook. Although I do enjoy things Japanese – the food, the tea ceremonies, the culture – and have voraciously read the novel Shogun, I have a difficult time paying such a hefty bill for something so inexpensive to make at home. I do that with coffee already and feel guilty enough.
A Japanese friend of mine showed me how to make very basic tuna sushi rolls which take under 30 minutes to prepare and only cost about $5 for enough rolls to plump up a roomful of hungry Victorians. There are many different ways to prepare Sushi, but this is one of the simplest rolls I’ve found, so it’s a good entry-level dish before attempting the preparation of eel, puffer fish or fish roe that pop in your mouth and set off the gag reflex.
Although sushi is relatively cheap to make, you’ll have to invest in a few inexpensive tools and ingredients that should last you a while: Continue reading
Leave a comment | tags: japanese, nori, recipe, Rice, seaweed, soy sauce, sushi, tuna | posted in Appetizers, Asian, Fish and Meat, Side Dishes
Like the stuffed grape vine leaves, the stuffed squash, Koosa, is another Lebanese favourite. My mother’s first vegetable garden this year on Saltspring Island was almost wholly devoted to growing this unique vegetable. The recipe can be done with regular-sized squash or zucchini, although this family recipe has always traditionally been done with small, pale green or summer squash.
15 small squash (or other squash), hollowed
1 Lb. lean ground lamb or beef
1 cup rice
1 can of tomato juice (4-5 cups)
Juice from 2 lemons
1-2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper, cinnamon and allspice Continue reading
6 Comments | tags: koosa, lebanese food, recipe, Squash, zucchini | posted in Fish and Meat, Lebanese Food, Side Dishes
I just returned home from a week-long trip to Quebec for the holidays where I had the opportunity to sample some fantastic French Canadian cuisine during reveillon (essentially an all-night celebration and buffet of artery-clogging treats), including tourtiere, maple fudge and home made doughnuts drizzled in a type of maple taffy. Coming back home 5 pounds heavier, I resolved to detox for at least a week on fruits, veggies and lots of fish.
While waiting for a seaplane back to Vancouver Island yesterday, I stood drooling at a Cajun halibut dish from a restaurant menu nearby, as I had skipped lunch on board the Air Canada flight from Montreal; and several hours later I found myself picking out the best looking halibut fillet from the seafood counter at the local grocer with this meal in mind. It is visually appealing in its colour and packs a mouthful of sinus-clearing kick from the Cajun-style spices. Continue reading
2 Comments | tags: cajun, cod, Fish, halibut, mango, recipe, salsa, snapper | posted in Fish and Meat
In the event that you ever need to determine whether or not a person is of Lebanese descent, say if you’re a diplomat, international spy or want to learn a new party trick, there is a litmus test that almost never lies. A Lebanese nose is usually distinctly-shaped; but if that fails, look them in the eye and ask the individual in question about the Seven Spices. No, this isn’t middle eastern code. It refers to a combination of spices that are found, or should be found, in every Lebanese kitchen. It is made up of equal parts black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, fenugreek and powdered ginger. One can find these pre-mixed at middle eastern grocers or, if you’re in a hurry and short on ingredients, try the Three Spice version: allspice, pepper and cinnamon, which tastes nearly as good. These spices are an integral part of the recipe below, which has been in my grandmother’s repertoire for 92 years (except for the Uncle Ben rice part, of course). Continue reading
4 Comments | tags: hashweh, lebanese food, recipe, Rice | posted in Chicken, Fish and Meat, Lebanese Food
We eat a lot of salmon in our household – we’ve never been big red meat eaters and living on the West Coast of British Columbia provides ample access to fresh fish. This being said, we’ve started running out of creative ways to prepare salmon, bringing us to the brink of giving up on seafood out of boredom, for chicken which can be prepared in a variety of ways. This is pure culinary laziness on my part – as you’ll see from this easy recipe below which serves up salmon in a refreshingly different, restaurant-calibre way. Continue reading
1 Comment | tags: puff pastry, recipe, Salmon, salmon Wellington | posted in Fish and Meat
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and Pepper
4 x 7 ounce salmon fillets
2 tsp olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. In a small bowl, whisk brown sugar, mustard, lemon juice and 1/2 tsp pepper
3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Rub salmon with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the salmon, skin side up, in the skillet until a crisp brown crust forms, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, flip the salmon and coat with the brown sugar mixture.
4. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the glaze caramelizes and the fish is cooked through – about 5 minutes.
In the photo above, I served the fillet on a bed of sauteed kale and apples.
3 Comments | tags: brown sugar, dijon mustard, Fish, recipe, Salmon | posted in Fish and Meat
I worked and travelled in Thailand for one summer and ended up staying in Chiang Mai for 3 days in the desperate search to see an elephant. The 3 days then turned into 2 weeks, as I lost track of time. I never did get to meet an elephant in that particular city except for one sad, wizened elephant who accompanied its master through a seedy district of town as a novelty for tourists. Although my exposure to these ancient pachyderms was a letdown, the rest of the city had plenty to offer.
I could spend countless posts praising or describing this incredible country, but will instead just focus on the couple of days when I signed up for Thai cooking classes at the renowned Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, run by Thailand’s answer to Emeril: Chef Sompon. Classes would typically begin after lunch and last until dinner time and would include the preparation of 5 or 6 traditional dishes. Even though meals were spaced out, I would still skip breakfast each day just to make room for the feast that would follow. The Thai fish cakes were one of the meals made on the second day of my class and it was probably one of the only seafood dishes I recall eating during my stay. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Continue reading
2 Comments | tags: Fish, Fish cakes, Thai | posted in Appetizers, Asian, Fish and Meat, Side Dishes, Thai
A wonderful childhood memory of my grandmother – Sito, as she is known in Lebanese – is of her bringing my brother and I behind the neighbourhood swimming pool to pick grapevine leaves to make Yabrek, stuffed grapevine leaves. Although the ultimate payoff was the mouth-watering fingers of lamb meat we would feast on later that evening, also tantalizing to our young tastebuds was to nibble on the new vine shoots, shaped like curly-cues, which often had a sweet flavour to them.
I’ve searched the internet for years to find a recipe that was a close match to the Yabrek I remembered from my childhood. After many trials, my mother finally came across the secret ingredient – rhubarb – which, when added to the cooking pot, adds a distinct sweet flavour that is unmistakeable. Continue reading
Leave a comment | tags: dolmades, grapevine | posted in Fish and Meat, Lebanese Food
I’m not really a dip kind of guy, unless it’s hummus or spinach-artichoke. Not that I’m incredibly health conscious, but I’ve always been suspect of the calorie or fat count of store-bought dips. Even though this dip recipe includes cream cheese and mayo, the smoked salmon in it at least makes me feel a little less guilty pleasure when partaking. This tastes great on sliced cucumbers or with cut veggies.
2 cups cream cheese (I use light cheese, in order to feel a little less guilty)
3 tbsp onion, minced
1/3 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 cup smoked salmon
1/4 cup mayonnaise (light)
2 tsp fresh dill, chopped
1. Whip cream cheese in a blender until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend well using a food processor or blender.
2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
Leave a comment | tags: easy dip, Fish, smoked salmon | posted in Appetizers, Fish and Meat
Tourtiere, or meat pie in English, like its other Quebec counterpart Poutine, has been known to have be made in hundreds of ways, ranging from chicken tourtiere (which confounds me), to the traditional pork and veal that I am familiar with, to the countless other regional variations. Many French Canadian homes that I’ve been in have a tourtiere recipe, hand written on a yellow, stained index card that has been handed down for generations like a family heirloom. I can’t say for sure if it’s a French Canadian tradition, but like many other Quebeckers I was raised to eat every dinner that’s served in a pastry shell with large dollops of ketchup. Don’t knock it till you try it. This particular recipe was given to me by my mom from my Aunt Diane.
Leave a comment | tags: french canadian food, Meat pie, Quebec, recipe, tourtiere | posted in Fish and Meat, Pies
Daniel first introduced me to this recipe a few years ago and it’s been on my “Mike’s Favourite List” ever since. Watching him prepare this meal was the first time I had ever been privy to a slowly cooked meal (defined to me as: a meal that takes over an hour to prepare and doesn’t come out of a can). That being said, it is time-intensive only in the sense that the chicken needs to marinate overnight in a heavenly concoction that smells so good you’ll drool in your sleep and have nocturnal visions of a sun-kissed mediterranean beach.
Chicken Marbella calls for an unusual cast of characters, like capers, olives, half a head of garlic, plums and brown sugar, something that a child might dream up if given free reign in the kitchen. But what a combination! My friend Nathalie dropped off frozen chanterelle mushrooms a few weeks ago, so I made wild mushroom risotto as a side dish. If you have leftovers (unlikely), this meal tastes even better the next day.
Leave a comment | tags: chicken, chicken marbella | posted in Fish and Meat
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 Anaheim chili, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp grated lime peel
3 tbsp lime juice
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans white tuna, rinsed and drained.
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic about 2 minutes, stirring constantly until onion is softened.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until hot.
Leave a comment | posted in Fish and Meat, Side Dishes, Vegetarian
1 1/2 pounds cod, perch or other lean fish
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp butter, melted
1. Heat oven to 500 degrees F
2. Cut fish fillets into 4 x 2 inch pieces. Mix remaining ingredients except eggs and butter. Dip fish into beaten egg, then coat with cornmeal mixture.
3. Place fish on ungreased cookie sheet. Drizzle butter over fish. Bake 11 minutes, turning fish once.
Leave a comment | tags: cod, Fish, perch | posted in Fish and Meat