RECIPE: Tuna Avocado Salad on Ciabatta

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Whenever I purchase my favourite ciabatta from Pure Bread (http://www.purebread.ca/) at the Vancouver Farmer’s Market, I’ll be more inclined to make sandwiches for weekend or weekday lunches.  This is a light and easy recipe, loosely based on Michael Smith’s from Chef at Home; you can always personalize it with your own flavours (and I did); Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Fresh ciabatta bread (from your local bakery/market), 1 canned tuna (drained), 1 avocado (pitted and peeled), 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel, 1 green scallion (sliced), handful of chopped italian flat leaf parsley (optional), kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper (or red chilli pepper flakes) to taste.  

Preparation:

– Sliced Ciabatta in middle, lightly brush bread on one side with olive oil (optional), toast both sides on pan over medium heat

– Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, salt and pepper to make vinaigrette; set aside

– Chop avocado, mix with tuna, scallion and parsley, toss well in vinaigrette; salt and pepper season to taste. Serve on toasted ciabatta as open faced sandwich.

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Ciabatta from Pure Bread!

Sunday Lunch at Burgoo on West 4th Avenue (Kitslano)

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Soup of the day: Roasted Cauliflower with garlic, apple, parsley and white cheddar It was delicious!

A brisk autumn day calls for comfort food; I was famished after my first volunteer stint at this past Sunday’s Farmers Market in Kits! After being surrounded by earthy vegetables and wholesome baked goods for close to 3 hours, I craved for something hearty…and Andy suggested we try Burgoo on West 4th Avenue (between Vine and Yew Street). This was our first visit at this location; the vibe is completely different from the Mount Pleasant (3096 Main Street @ East 14th Avenue), there were quite a few groups of finely dressed gal pals (in twos or fours, younger hipper versions of “ladies who lunch” ) having Sunday brunch and perhaps some shopping at the trendy boutiques (Gravity Pope, JNBY) in the area afterwards.

Although it was well after 1:30pm, the restaurant was packed and there were a few diners waiting ahead of us. We were greeted by a friendly hostess who promptly took our name/mobile number and advised us the wait would be approximately 20 minutes. Fortunately the restaurant is located in a great neighbourhood filled with interesting shops; so “the wait” was easy, we were contacted and seated within the stated time.

Brunch was available (Saturday and Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm) but we decided to go with the regular menu, consists of Starters, Soups/Sandwiches/Salads, Bistro Classics and Seasonal Menu: Andy had the Bistro side salad (picture not shown) and the Kentucky Burgoo – a meaty (lamb, beef and smoked ham) stew with lima beans, corn, molasses, tomato and okra. According to him (he didn’t let me try so it must have been very good…), it was packed with flavour and a nice balance of savoury and sweet; he was “soaking” up the sauce with the French baguette which our server smartly suggested earlier as add-on to compliment our dishes.

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I started with a cup of Roasted Cauliflower with garlic, apple, parsley and white cheddar (soup of the day; picture shown in header): It was a truly harmonious blend of all the fall flavours, the taste was “spot on”! It was perfect for a cold day; I am now inspired to recreate this soup at home.

My main was the Ratatouille Provencale, a medley of oven roasted vegetables in savoury tomato and garlic, baked with parsley, breadcrumbs and Chevre (goat cheese), finished with extra virgin olive oil: Tender vegetables with crispy baked bread crumbs and the garlic taste was bold! As a personal preference, a little less Chevre and garlic (both were a bit overpowering) would have been perfect. The serving was very generous and I had leftovers for dinner the next day.

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Our waitress (I forgot her name!!) was very attentive and knowledgeable, from the prompt water refills to menu descriptions, she made us feel very welcome and well looked after.

Next time if you crave a homey bite but not up for cooking at home, it’s worthwhile to pay a visit.

Information:

Burgoo – various locations (http://burgoo.ca/)

Burgoo on Urbanspoon

Check their website for standard menus, pricing and reservations policy. Cosy atmosphere, friendly service and good selection of “comfy” foods from around the world. Moderate pricing (reasonable and comparable to other casual dining bistros) with generous portions. Long line ups.
Parking at West 4th Avenue location: metered; interesting neighbourhood with unique food shops and boutiques.

Burgoo on Urbanspoon

RECIPE: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pears, Bacon and Stilton

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Butternut Squash is in season! By roasting the butternut squash, the flavour is concentrated and turns it into a delicious ingredient to be used in salads or soups.

The recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/roasted-butternut-squash-salad.aspx) with some changes: watercress and romaine lettuce hearts were used instead of escarole (due to availability); fresh thyme was added, the plating and serving style is also different.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as appetizer)

1 Large butternut squash (approximately 3 lbs), 5 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, 6 slices of thick sliced double smoked bacon (cut into 1/2 inch pieces), 2 medium firm ripe pears (Bartlett or Anjou – cleaned, peeled, cored, sliced 1/8 inch thick), 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (use the nicest one you can get), 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, two romaine lettuce hearts and handful of fresh watercress, 6 oz of Stilton cheese (crumbled).

Preparation:

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 450°F.

Cut off the narrow top portion of the squash close to where it widens (reserve the base for other use); peel and slice it into 12 thin (about 1/4-inch) rounds.

Brush both sides of the squash with olive oil (1 Tablespoon) and spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme on both sides.IMG_0032

Roast, turning once only, until softened and browned, approximately 25 minutes (Keep an eye on them!)

Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to paper towel to drain the fat. (The bacon bits can be prepared earlier; I prefer the “splatter free” method: bacon slices bake in the oven, transfer to plate lined with paper towel to absorb extra fat, after they cool, chop into small pieces) 

In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  Slowly whisk in the remaining 4 Tablespoons oil; season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

In a large bowl, toss the watercress and romaine lettuce with enough of the vinaigrette to coat lightly, season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the pears and tossed salad greens on 4 large dinner plates, top with butternut squash, add drizzle of vinaigrette, then sprinkle with the bacon and Stilton cheese to serve.  Be creative!

Notes:

Escarole is a variety of endive family, the leaves are broader, paler and less bitter than other members of endive family.

Stilton is an English cheese, Neal’s Yard Stilton was used in this recipe (Purchased from Whole Foods. Stilton cheese is not readily available at any regular supermarket, it’s usually available at specialty cheese/food stores only). Watercress has a peppery taste, very little were used in this recipe.

Bacon from Gelderman Farm (http://www.geldermanfarms.ca/, purchased at the Trout Lake Vancouver Farmer’s Market)

RECIPE: Braised Pacific Wild Cod with Leeks and Shimeji Mushrooms

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This was a recent weekend experiment based on an older #Fine Cooking’s recipe (http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/braised-pacific-halibut-leeks-mushrooms-clams.aspx); pacific wild cod was used instead of halibut, clams were omitted and shimeji mushrooms were used.  The cod is very delicate, be sure not to overcook and handle with the fish with extra care while serving.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, 4 packages of shimeji mushrooms (can be found in Asian supermarkets), 3 large leeks (white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, about 4 cups), kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, 3 cups low sodium organic chicken broth (or homemade , 4 pieces Pacific wild cod (medium size, 6 ounces), 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (for garnish, parsley infused oil will be a good option), black truffle salt**optional 

Preparation:

Melt the butter over medium heat in Dutch Oven.

Add leeks to pan, cook for 2 minutes, then add mushrooms; season lightly with kosher salt and pepper. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned,  approximately 7 to 8 minutes.

Add broth, raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

Pat dry the cod with paper towel; portion the fish (same size to cook evenly) then season both sides with salt and pepper. Gently place (nestle) the fish among the vegetables in the Dutch Oven.

Bring the broth back to a boil, cover tightly, and reduce the heat to low. Cook gently until the fish is just cooked through (approximately 8 minutes, I used a knife to “peek” and check for doneness, colour changes from translucent to opaque).

Serve the fish in shallow soup bowls (preferably warmed), topped with leeks and mushrooms, ladle the broth. For finishing touches, sprinkle a hint of black truffle salt (optional, do not overuse as it’s overpowering) and garnish with chopped parsley*.

*Additional notes:

The black truffle salt is optional – My friend Haruko brought me a jar from Italy as a present (Thank you so much!). We used very little to finish the dish and it was stunning!  Since we didn’t use the clams, the truffle salt added more depth and flavour to the broth. Perhaps a few drops of parsley infused oil will round off the dish nicely than the chopped parsley.  If you have time and the ingredients (do not throw away the roast chicken caucus), it is worthwhile to make your own chicken stock and have it ready for use in the freezer anytime.  We had a salad as a first course and I will post the recipe later (OO).

You can use olive oil instead of butter (1/2 cup butter = 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil), or combine together to enhance the flavour.

#Fine Cooking offers many excellent basic cooking tips, other than Rouxbe, I use the website and cookbooks/magazines as reference all the time.

Roman pizzas anyone? Lunch @ Trilussa on Main

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The Vancouver – smoked salmon and organic salad

Riley Park – LIttle Mountain, particularly along Main Street, between East 16th to 33rd Avenue, is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Vancouver; I swear I must have walked by Trilussa Pizza and Pane (http://trilussa.ca/many times. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I always assumed it was only a coffee house!  It was not until recently when my “twin” brought me to this wonderful unassuming little #pizza and #pane eatery, I realized how much I’ve missed since the summer of 2011! Pardon my ignorance, I recently looked it up on #Urbanspoon and realize they have a 97% approval rating from the community and received rave reviews from many fellow food bloggers.

The three of us ordered three different types of specialty pizzas (other than classics like Margherita) which they sell by the slice (squares or rectangles, in various sizes) or as a whole: the Vancouver (Smoked salmon, organic salad), Caprese (tomato/bocconcini/organic salad) >and the Attillo (mushrooms and mozzarella, picture not shown), served on a wooden paddle. They keep things authentic and simple: thin and crispy crust, fresh produce, nice cheeses, cured meats and olive oil. In every bite you can taste the flavours, every ingredient shines through.

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Caprese – Tomato, organic salad and bocconcini (small mozzarella cheese)

Besides pizzas, they also offer panini, soups, and of course, coffee.  It is a fairly small place with not much seating, however the three times I’ve been there since late summer, somehow we always managed to find seating on a Saturday afternoon. Staff are very friendly; I can tell they are highly supported by their neighbourhood!  Everyone seems to know them very well, while dropping by for a bite, they also stop by to chit chat.

Little Mountain is a wonderful community filled with many hidden gems; whether you are an out of town visitor or a local, it is definitely worth your while to pay a visit.

Information:

#Trilussa (4363 Main Street, Vancouver, BC (Between East 27th and East 28th Avenue)

Trilussa Pizza & Pane on Urbanspoon

Fresh pizzas made with freshest ingredients, friendly service, reasonable prices and moderate portion sizes. Seating is limited. Menu and pricing available on-line (http://trilussa.ca/)

Street parking is available (mostly metered, if you live in the neighbourhood, walking is the best way to get there)

Trilussa Pizza & Pane on Urbanspoon

RECIPE: Deb Perelman’s Mushroom Bourguignon

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Fall is here and mushrooms are in season! This is the best time to utilize this versatile and healthy ingredient. For the past few weeks, “Mushrooms Sunday” have become a norm…

This is one of my favourite Deb Perelman’s dish (http://smittenkitchen.com/) – the Mushroom Bourguignona scrumptuous and wonderful meatless adaption of the French flavoured classic which can be prepared with moderate amount of effort and minimal cooking time.  A couple weeks ago, I prepared this dish together with my friend for a Sunday night dinner; the recipe is adapted from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, we have made slight changes (*marked) based on our dietary preferences.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

2 Tablespoons olive oil, 2 Tablespoons organic butter (softened), 2 pounds mixed mushrooms *(we used Portobello and cremini, in 1/4 inch slices, cremini mushrooms all quartered); 1 1/2 cup of pearl onions (peeled), 1/2 carrot (finely diced), 1 medium* yellow onion (finely diced), 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried), Kosher salt*, freshly ground pepper, 2 garlic cloves (minced), 1 cup full bodied red wine, 3 Tablespoons* tomato paste, 1 1/2 to 2 cups *low sodium* organic beef broth (use vegetarian broth to make it vegetarian), 1 1/2 Tablespoons rice flour* (all purpose flour works), Pappardelle pasta* for serving, greek yogurt* and chopped chives or parsley for garnish (optional)

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Preparation:

-Clean all mushrooms, removed gills from Portobello mushrooms), blanched and peeled pearl onions

– Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 1 Tablespoon butter in medium sized Dutch oven (or heavy saucepan) over high heat; sear the mushrooms and pearl onions until they begin to take on a little colour for approximately 3 to 4 minutes.  The mushrooms will make a “squeak-squeak” (just as Deb Perelman puts it in her book, you can actually hear it !) sound as they are pushed around the hot pan – and they do not yet release any liquid.  Remove mushrooms and onions from the pan and set aside.

– Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil.  Cook carrot, diced onion, thyme, pinches of salt and black pepper in the pan and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is slightly caramelized.  Add the garlic, cook for additional 1 minute, season with more salt and pepper.

– Add wine to the pot to deglaze and scrape all brown bits off the bottom, turn heat up and reduce it by half (takes approximately 5 minutes).  Stir in the tomato paste and stock, add the mushrooms and pearl onions with any juices that have collected and bring it to a boil; bring it down to simmer for 15 minutes, or until both the mushrooms and onions are very tender.IMG_0015

-Combine flour and remaining butter (roux) with fork, through a small strainer (to avoid forming any lumps), stir mixture into the stew, let it simmer in lower heat until stew thickens to a “coating” consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

– Prepare noodles in salted boiling water (follow instructions on package), drain thoroughly.

IMG_0034– To serve, spoon the stew over the bowl of noodles, add dollop of greek yogurt (if using) and sprinkle with optional chives or parsley.

– The stew is full of flavour already when enjoyed on same day; reheats very well on the second and third!  The beef is not missed at all…Enjoy!

Rouxbe..Learn how to cook in the comfort of your own home

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Ever heard of “Rouxbe” (https://rouxbe.com/)?? If you are a time or location challenged enthusiastic home chef who enjoys cooking classes, this maybe a solution for you.

It is a members only (fees applicable), instructor-led on-line cooking school, offering instructor-guided certification courses for cooks at all levels, serving both home and professional cooks worldwide. I was first introduced to this website through Northwest Culinary and became a member in 2012.   It  was established in 2005 and apparently it is being used as a supplementary tool at partnered culinary schools.

Their high quality instructional videos provide broken down, concise step-by-step instructions which allow the user to learn, skip back and re-watch any details you may need at any time, at the comfort of your own home.  All courses can be taken on demand at your own pace: There are longer term cooking courses, and short individual subject-matter focused cooking classes.  It tracks your progress and there are actual quizzes to review your knowledge!

Currently I’m enrolled in two cooking courses (maximum 3 at a time); The Cook’s Roadmap (Level 1) and Food Safety course; I have set aside time each week to study on my own. I also use this website as a reference very often; there are separate sections on recipes (video or text only, Rouxbe tested or community submitted), cooking tips/techniques and discussion forum which I find very resourceful.  It has added on so much to my existing knowledge as a home chef; I do believe learning the techniques behind each recipe is the most effective way to learn how to cook.

Presently this is working out very well with my schedule; besides it is getting quite cold here in #Vancouver, I’m quite content to stay warm and cosy and learn in the comfort of my own home.