Updates from June, 2010 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • eastsidekp 10:32 pm on June 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Cordial drinking for Canada 

    The weather for Canada Day in Halifax is looking good. So while you’re (hopefully) enjoying a day off, you’ll need a few good drink recipes to show what a patriot you are.

    Make a rhubarb toast to our nation

    The beginning of July is pretty much the end of rhubarb season – but if you’ve got a few stalks left , try drinking them. That’s right: I’ve become a big fan of rhubarb based drinks.  The basic principle for all the rhubarb drinks I’ve tried is the same: pull your rhubarb, cut it up, simmer it and pour the liquid through a strainer to remove most of the solid fruit. The result is a tasty liquid  you can use in alcoholic or nonalcoholic drinks. As a bonus, you can throw the remaining rhubarb chunks into some dessert baking, bearing in mind its reduced flavour.

    While the internet abounds with recipes for making  cordials, I’ve decided that working on a cup for cup basis works well – 1 cup chopped rhubarb to 1 cup water.  Simmer 15 to 20 minutes – I like to do it half the time with the lid on and half with the lid off, and aim to have half the amount of liquid that I started with by the end. With this you’ll have a decently strong cordial to proceed with.

    If you’re planning on using water as the liquid to dilute your cordial with – add some sugar while the brew is still hot and stir vigourously to get the sugar mixed in.  If you’ll be mixing your cordial with something other than water, consider the sugar content of that mix before adding too much sweetener.  Dilute the cordial to taste, and serve cold.  Mixing with clear soda-like Sprite or 7UP- is a good way to add sweetness and bubbles.

    If you like a bit of kick in your drinks – try the sweetened cordial with gin and soda water or tonic (I made the switch to soda a few years ago after realizing the sugar content of tonic water-but either works), some lime and a touch of fresh mint if you’ve got it.  But the pièce de résistance of summer rhubarb drinks has to be this slushie recipe that I recently encountered on a trip to New Brunswick:

    Boozy rhubarb slushie

    Make your cordial from 8 cups each of water and rhubarb. Pour off the liquid and combine with 2 cans of frozen pink lemonaid and 1 pint of gin. Freeze for 24 hours.  Once frozen, stir the slush to get the parts mixed more evenly, scoop into a tall glass and top with soda water (or tonic, or Sprite/7UP, if you’ve got a sweeter tooth).

    Happy Canada Day!

  • MB 9:01 pm on June 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Chef Battle 

    When I aarrived at CATCH: the Nova Scotia Seafood Festival on Sunday, it was in the middle of the last semi-final round of the Great CATCH Chef Competition. Chef Bee Choo Char, Executive Chef at Gio restaurant at the Prince George Hotel in Halifax vs. Chef Luis Clavel, Executive Chef at the Holiday Inn Harbourview in Dartmouth. Last year, Char came in second to Chef Andrew Stevens, Chef de Cuisine at Little Louis’ Restaurant in Moncton, NB. After a well-fought match, and some seriously delicious plates getting handed off to the judges, Clavel — who I profiled in The Coast earlier this year — was victorious.

    Chef Competition

    After a brief intermission, it all came down to Chef Peter Dewar, Professional Chef/ Teacher at Nova Scotia Community College, and Clavel. Chef Ray Bear (who is opening a new restaurant soon, called MIX Fresh Kitchen) hosted and poked a lot of fun at the two chefs, promising at least a year of ridicule and derision to the loser. (More …)

  • MB 10:44 am on June 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Catch and Release 

    Yesterday I wandered on down to the Cunard Centre to Catch: the Nova Scotia Seafood Festival. I spent the afternoon doing everything from taking in an oyster shucking competition, watching a black box chef competition and tasting some delicious ocean treats, courtesy of some of the best restaurants and seafood suppliers in Nova Scotia.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    My favourites of the day, included in the above slideshow, were from the Delta, Waterfront Warehouse and Ryan Duffy’s. The Delta prepared a pan-roasted local halibut with smoked tomato coulis, fried basil leaves and a basil drizzle. It was light and delicious. The Waterfront Warehouse brought lobster sandwiches and their famous fish & chips. I had the sandwich — one of my favourite dishes from last year — and it was as tasty as I remembered. The clams prepared by Chef Chris Velden from Ryan Duffy’s were also delicious. They were in a mild coconut milk broth, and were really tender and juicy.

    I had a few other nibbles as I wandered through the venue, but those are the three that really stand out for me. Instead of eating, I spent most of the afternoon watching the Great CATCH Chef competition. It was really fantastic. I’ll save that for another blog post!

  • Andy Murdoch 10:22 pm on June 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    More sandwiches: PMB vs BLT 

    [What a ridiculous photo: Someone bit into my PMB before I took a photo. It’s like a sinking ship here.]

    Jim Lahey’s book My Bread kept me making bread this year. I highly recommend it. The book says that if you have no spare time you still have time to make his bread. I’m not precious about my time — I still watch TV and drink beer — but with a new kid in my house, making sourdough bread falls into the same timeline as paying off my mortgage and finishing Proust.

    Now I preach no-knead bread. Lahey is dead on. Homemade bread is a small demand upon your time. A 24 hour process with little effort. Mix, rise, punch, rise, bake. Lather with butter. Eat. Anyway, his bread is an aside. Today Lahey’s PMB (Pancetta, Mango, Basil) is my focus.

    What a magical combination of taste and texture. Make fresh bread (ok, I bought a loaf of rye), slice mango, sprinkle it with hot chilli powder, add  double smoked bacon and basil leaves. The basil complements the bacon, bringing out peppery and anise flavours. The mango replaces the mayo (believe it, mayo-lovers, this mango miracle whips the white stuff) for moisture and adds sweetness. I know mangos are as a rule not very good by the time they reach old Nova Scotia, but this is a worthy use of mediocre mango. Quality bacon is the key, and we have plenty of that here: Oulton’s for one. I used bacon from [that German place on across from Mike’s Fish shop in the market – please help me here, folks]. It’s top notch.

    I made a BLT to compare. A different beast altogether. I only eat BLTs in the summer because they are really all about tomato. Thick cuts of beefsteaks, lots of pepper and mayo and a little bacon to add salt and body.

  • MB 5:54 pm on June 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cheap eats, markets, , ,   

    In the land of Submarines 

    For weeks I have been hearing about the bánh mì sandwiches available at the Harbourview Weekend Market in Dartmouth. Today I finally got one. This was actually my first time at the Market, and I was pretty excited by what I saw. Along with the crappy jewelry, knock-off sunglasses and random garbage that one would find at a flea market — something the Weekend Market, I learned upon exclaiming “this is a great flea market!”, is definitely not — there are also some great food options. There are local fruits, berries and vegetables, freshly baked breads, pies and sweets, fudge and vendors with everything from clams and fries to Chinese, Vietnamese and Caribbean fare.

    My first stop was Thuy Vietnamese Cuisine, where I picked up the mythical Dartmouth bánh mì.

    bánh mì

    Let’s take a closer look! (More …)

  • simonathibault 12:53 pm on June 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Words, Words, Words 

    When I enter my kitchen, I have a hard time not turning into Don Quixote.

    The famous character believed that every word written in his books were true. No matter how crazy or impossible it might seem, it had to be true.

    No, I can make this demi-glaze, even if it does take two days.

    Yes, I can cook a pig’s head.

    Well, yes I did make the demi-glaze, and the pig head. But it wasn’t easy and I ended up calling the pig head a torchon to make it sound more appetising.

    My travels, my travails across my kitchen library are well worn.

    (More …)

  • Andy Murdoch 2:37 pm on June 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    England v. USA: what to drink 

    So the World Cup of Soccer is on right now and if you didn’t know, this afternoon England is playing the United States of America. The question is, what to drink as you watch the game between two teams most folk living outside each nation generally love to hate. It’s hard to know who to root for. England: perpetual losers, but insufferable winners. I’m a little soft on them, though. Americans: too used to winning everything but soccer. Wouldn’t it be nice for them to get a bloody nose? Yet, they are outsiders. Rats! Two lovable villains.

    Beer is always a standby drink in both nations, so by all means, drink beer, but if you have any imagination you’ll try a little summery cocktail or two.

    Team USA: the Americano.

    Like soccer, not a drink invented or native to America, but named after American tourists who came to Milan at the turn of the last century and took a shine to this drink.

    One part Campari, two parts Vermouth, ice, sparkling water, slice of orange.

    This is currently my favourite summer drink. I love the bitter Campari, smoothed out by sweet vermouth and the orange. Totally refreshing.

    Team England: Ginger wine, the good mixer.

    The standard English summer classic is a Pimms cup, a delicious drink made for garden parties more than football matches. That involves fizzy lemonade or ginger ale, Pimms with fruit and cucumbers thrown in. Instead, I bought a bottle of Hutchison’s Ginger Wine. Sweet, light and – yes – gingery like the angry lid of former England player Paul Scholes or Simon Pegg (the actor, who has never to my knowledge played for an English football team).

    There’s lots to do with Ginger Wine. A Whisky Mac is scotch and ginger wine. Great for a chilly spring day, so add some ice, lemon peel and soda for the summer. Ginger wine, rum and ginger ale is a good drink, too. Maybe some Hutchisons added to lager to make a more alcoholic shandy? Or, plainly with some soda water and fruit juice, I was thinking rhubarb juice (stewed then strained, please). Maybe try Kingsley Amis’ MacCossack: vodka and ginger wine. A little brutal, like a cheap tackle from behind, but that’s nothing One haven’t seen happen in a London park any time of year.

    The key to a match up with Ginger wine is: it’s a good mixer. Ginger wine improves just about everything, including your belief that England can win the cup. So let’s get this game going!

  • simonathibault 11:14 am on June 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    This week at the Halifax Farmer’s Market 

    At this time of year, it’s worth your time to get up early to go to your local farmer’s market.

    With the upcoming dearth of food that just keeps getting bigger and better every week, markets tend to get full and sell out of foodstuffs early. So it’s worth your time to set your alarm a little earlier. You’re not the only one who wants to go and get the best stuff. And if you live in city like Halifax, there are chefs and foodies to contend with.

    And they’re probably just as excited as we are to find this:

    Fresh strawberries.

    They go great with all the arugula that’s growing, tempering the spiciness of the green. Add a little nut oil to your vinagrette (hazelnut oil is wonderful) and some fresh chevre and you’ve got a great salad.

    Or you could always make strawberry rhubarb pie. Or stawberry shortcake. Or strawberry sorbet…

    As for salad greens, you can’t go wrong with spicy mizuna to give a nice kick to your greens.

    For a splash of colour and sweetness, try some beet greens.

    And since you want to spend the least amount of time in the kitchen, try some stir fries with tender Shanghai Pak Choy.

    They’re very tender, so they need very little cooking. If you can get them when they’re very small, they’re a great addition to your salads.

  • simonathibault 7:21 pm on June 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    The beginning of the bounty 

    Farmer’s markets around the country are starting to show their true colours at this time of year, and the Halifax Farmer’s Market is no exception:

    We here at Passable want to give you the heads up as to what is in season and around at the farmer’s markets.

    Early in the spring, you can find the (all too brief) purple coloured tips of asparagus.

    The brilliant roses and pinks and whites of early summer radishes, reminding us of what is to come.

    And the first hothouse tomatoes of the year.

    This saturday at the market, I found lemony sorrel and delicate purslane – which apparently is classified as a weed in Nova Scotia -, hearty orach – a dark purple green that is considered to be a precursor to modern spinach – and picked up a couple grass-fed steaks for the barbecue.

    I hear from some of the farmer’s that the first strawberries will be coming soon, and that some of them may soon have hothouse cucumbers. We’ll keep you posted with new photos and stories every week.

    Speaking of markets, the latest issue of Saveur is all about markets.

    The issue shows markets from around the world, from Indonesia to Russia. It even mentions – ever so briefly – the Halifax Farmer’s Market, as shown on a map of markets from around the globe, placing it among such famous markets as the Pepper Exchange in India and the Mercato del Tartufo in Italy. It also features an opening article written by Naomi Duguid, the Toronto based food writer, about how markets nourish us mind, body and soul.

  • simonathibault 11:03 am on June 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: gaspereau, gastronomy,   

    Hello And Goodbye Gaspereaux 

    Whether you call them Gaspereau, Alewives or Kyacks, they’re pretty tasty.

    The Gaspereau are a small herring that are found across most of the eastern seaboard, from Newfoundland all the way to North Carolina.  A fully developed gaspereau is  usually between ten and twelve inches in length and weighs close to 12 ounces.  Nowadays, the majority of the fish are used as bait for lobster fishing or for making petfood – most people find the preparation of such a small and very bony fish quite tedious. But in rural Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the fish are still caught, and it is there that they have left their strongest mark.

    Nova Scotia has the Gaspereau river, where the fish were caught by the local indigenous populations as well as the first Acadian settlers – which probably explains my fast fondness for the flavour of the fish. As for which came first, the name of the river, the community, or the fish, is a bit of a chicken and egg story, but needless to say, it is a tasty one.

    They are often smoked or pickled, as most people find them too fatty or oily for eating on their own.  But this high fat content makes them perfect for curing and smoking.  It is the latter that I had the chance to eat while on a recent trip through the southwestern parts of New Brunswick.  The St. John River is teeming with gaspereau in late April and early May.  It seemed a rather fitting snack, as the home where I was staying was only a few feet from the river, and I saw a few people in dories and canoes out fishing the few days I spent there.

    Like most regional delicacies, it’s all about who you know.  My partner’s father took me to meet a barrel-chested and suspendered man who sold us a two pound bag of the shiny smoked goodies.  He said that he usually cures/brines them, and then smokes them over maple wood, finishing them off with a maple syrup glaze.  This is not a commercial deal, it’s just for him, his friends and the occasional lucky visitor.

    If you do find yourself lucky to get some smoked gaspereau, be sure to double, if not triple bag them.  They are wonderfully rich, but so is their aroma, and if you’re not careful, your fingers and anything the fish come in contact with will start to smell like smoked fish. Oh, and don’t open a bag/container/etc of them in a warm car. Your company might not like it.

    Driving to St. John just as the sun was starting to rise, I caught sight of a local man setting up his fishing rod, probably getting ready to start fishing.  The locals in the area are permitted to catch up to twenty a day for their own purposes, but I’ve been told that whole families will go out to the river, just in case the game warden shows up, grandpa can say that his grandkids caught their own batches.

    • flandrumhill 6:11 pm on June 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Gaspereaux run along the Cow Bay river near my home. They attract the attention of both fishermen and ospreys. I’ve never fished for them but have wondered about them for years. So nice to finally learn something about them 🙂

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