May 2017: Come What May……

The month of May….

With no expectations and no set plans for the time being…

I took each day as is…reflect, cherish and enjoy..

Come What May…

Playing Tourist in our own town: Vancouver Foodie Tours’ Granville Island Market Tour, Stave Falls and Sewell Marina’s Sea Safari 

Have you ever walked around in your own city as if you were a tourist?  My hubby and I love doing this in Metro Vancouver especially during the spring and summer season!  As our beloved city is growing rapidly, very often we are very surprised by how quickly it changes, how much there is to see, and how little we actually know about our hometown.

For the past 3 years we are very fortunate to be participants in the Destination BC’s Tourism Challenge program ; every year over 20,000 tourism industry participants are invited to experience Vancouver and BC region to enrich their knowledge in order to share their experience with visitors from around the world.

Since the end of April,  we had such a blast going around town and took part in some activities/tours which I think even locals would enjoy…

Vancouver Foodie Tours’ Granville Island Market Tour:

A fun, informative and tasty Sunday morning spent with 14 others and our wonderful tour guide Tracy at Granville Island Market, making stops and sampling tasty bites at Edible Canada, JJ Bean, Terra Breads, Oyama Sausage and Co (charcuterie 7 types), Benton Brothers Cheese, #1 Orchard (Apple) , Granville Island Tea Co (their famous chai tea) and Lee’s Donuts (freshly made!).

First Stop at Edible Canada – Roasted vegetables
Charcuterie from Oyama Sausage and Co. : 7 types for tasting!
Ever had a fresh made donut?

We were introduced to these wonderful local vendors and see the best they have to offer, at the same time we were learning a bit about the history and establishment of the Public Market.  I often attend cooking classes and this is my second food walking tour (first one back in September 2016 in Halifax)! Thank you Tracy and Vancouver Foodie Tours for the wonderful experience!

http://www.foodietours.ca

Sewell Marina’s Sea Safari:  Beautiful Howe Sound – sights and sound of the sea

Christie’s Islet – Bird sanctuary

Sewell Marina’s Sea Safari is very enthralling guided tour: Boarding the 30 feet rigid and sturdy inflatable boat at beautiful Horseshoe Bay,  we  took the 1630 tour (last one of the day the Circle Tour) and spent 2 hours soaring through the stunning Howe Sound waters, taking in the beautiful scenery (Anvil Island, Gambier Island, Lions Bay, Mystery Falls, Christie’s Islet, Bowen Island just to name a few), admired the mighty coastal mountains and enjoyed the sightings of wildlife (bald eagle, seals), all from a safe distance !

Our tour guide Casey was very friendly and knowledgeable, we were also blessed with beautiful weather and the seas were calm…overall a truly exceptional experience!

BC is truly stunning and I am proud to call it my home.

Entrance to the dock

http://www.sewellsmarina.com

Driving on our own: BC Hydro Stave Falls, Kilby Museum (at Harrison Mills, BC) and Bridal Falls 

Did you know Canada’s first free cooking school of its kind held a five-day electric cooking demonstration at the Vancouver Hotel from May 03 to 7 in 1926?  This is one of the cooking “trivia” I just learned from our trip to BC Hydro Powerhouse at Stave Falls.  This 100-year-old power generating facility is also a National Historic Site of Canada, where visitors can tour the generator facilities and browse through the museum where you can see old versions of home appliances.  I was so excited to see the old cooking elements (the fancy models have a “dish warmer” above the stove) and learning about the history of cookery, certainly a bit geekish…

The facility is in pristine condition, the dam is majestic, and down by the lake there is a beautiful camping site, so you may want to spend a little more time to explore the area.

Stave Falls Dam and Power House

 

From Stave Falls we drove another 45 minutes to visit Kilby Historic Site (another stop for the challenge).  Located at the junction of Harrison and Fraser Rivers, it is a historic site of a once thriving community.  It felt as if we were travelling back in time to the early 1900’s, the highlight was going through the General Store Museum, learning about the history and listening to fascinating stories told by their knowledgeable volunteers.  Did you know back in those days people can order groceries by mail?  That was the “primitive” version of internet!  There is also very  simple gift shop / restaurant on site where they offer pies, soups and sandwiches; the egg salad sandwich was very good and I had it with a hearty vegetable soup, it all felt very rustic and homey.

BLT for him and Egg Salad for me…plus a Hearty Delicious Healthy Vegetable Soup

 

Ramp leading up to the Historic General Store Museum

 

“original” goods in the General store…I wonder…

We drove another 30 minutes from Kilby to Bridal Veil Falls, Chilliwack BC; we figured we were already out there so why not drive further?  This is the first time seeing Bridal Veil Falls up close, last time four years ago on the train travelling to Jasper, Alberta. We took the 15 minute hike (a little longer for me and that moment I decided I must get back into shape!) through the beautiful woods; it was almost at the end of the day so it was not crowded at all. The fresh air within the woods and the sounds of the waterfall

Bridal Veils Falls – first time seeing the Falls up close !

http://www.kilby.ca

http://www.bchydro.com

Returning to the Pear Tree (4120 East Hastings, Burnaby, BC)

http://www.peartreerestaurant.net

Classic Flamed Gin Tomato Soup with Chive Whipped Cream….the refreshing taste of the tomato really came through

There are so many dining options available in Vancouver and sometimes we forget the older established favorites…we just returned to Pear Tree with our friends for birthday celebrations.  Although it is a bit out-of-the-way, the food is very fresh and unpretentious,  and the service is truly attentive and exceptional. Once again I ordered their vegetarian menu (you can ask for the menu) and asked the same old question from two years ago: is it really vegetarian?  For sure it will not take me another two years to dine at this fine establishment again.

Butternut Squash Risotto : packed with flavor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RECIPE: Vegetable Curry Udon

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A bowl of savory and mouth-watering curry noodle soup on a cold Vancouver winter day!

My recipe is loosely based and adapted from Japanese Soul Cooking (By Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat), one of my great recent cookbook finds!  They use soba broth (it’s called kake soba broth) to enhance the flavor of curry;  I added turmeric (when sautéed the onions and vegetables), diced apple and fukujinzuke, commonly used to serve with Japanese curry rice, are used as garnish (in addition to green onion) to a hint of sweetness and add “crunch” to the dish, the end result is much more flavorful.  Leftover curry taste even better the next day, add more vegetables or meat then serve with rice as a donburi (you can always add crispy fried pork cutlet (tonkatsu),  or simply freeze it ready for use anytime for quick ready-to-go weeknight dinner; Enjoy (OO).

Serves 2-4:

Ingredients:  4 bricks of fresh-frozen sanuki udon, 1 large onion (thinly sliced), 1 small head of cauliflower (florets roughly chopped), 1 medium zucchini (diced), 4 small bunched carrots (peeled and chopped), 3 Tablespoons of ground turmeric, 1 Tablespoon of mirin, 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 package (110g) Japanese curry roux (I used Glico Medium Premium),  6 cups of katsuobushi dashi, green scallions (white part only, thinly sliced on an angle), kosher salt (light seasoning when cooking vegetables).

Note:

To make the dish completely vegetarian, simply substitute the katsuobushi dashi with kombu dashi broth

For Meat Lovers: Thinly sliced pork or minced pork goes very well with the curry,  I used the a bit of ground ginger and apple, turmeric powder and kaeshi to marinade the pork (minced or thinly sliced) night before if I am adding protein to the curry.

You can use curry powder and potato starch instead of the instant curry roux.

Check out Ms. Namiko Chen’s  Just One Cookbook, she has a great pork curry udon recipe.

Here’s a picture of the fukujinzuke!

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*Recipe for kaeshi (makes 2 1/2 cups) – from Japanese Soul Cooking

Prepare 2 to 3 days in advance this recipe : Add 2 cups Japanese soy sauce (I used only 1 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup katsuobushi dashi to make it less salty), 1/2 cup mirin, 3 Tablespoons sugar (I used coconut nectar instead, adjust the sweetness accordingly) – Add all ingredients into saucepan and bring to boil over high heat.  Turn off the heat and allow mixture to cool off to room temperature.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days to allow the flavors time to mingle, store in glass bottle and refrigerate up to a month.

**In Japanese Soul Cooking – they prepare the kake soba broth (combining the kaeshi and dashi and a lot of mirin) ahead of time, I did not combine the katsuobushi dashi broth and kaeshi, I add them separately into the curry and use a lot less mirin.  Check out their book, it’s filled with wonderful recipes, thank you very much for your inspiration.

Preparation:

  • 2 to 3 days before – prepare kaeshi (see recipe above, refrigerate in glass container ready for use)
  • Prepare dashi broth (can be done 1 to 2 days ahead, refrigerate in glass container ready for use)
  • Prep all the vegetables
  • In a large saucepan, reheat the dashi broth (if you did not make from scratch the same day) and keep it warm
  • In a different large heavy pot, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil using medium high heat, add cauliflower and cook for 2 minutes, then add carrot (cook for another 2 minutes) and zucchini, lightly seasoned with kosher salt and 1 Tablespoon ground turmeric, saute in total 5 to 6 minutes then remove from pot, set aside.
  • In the same pot, heat another 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil (medium high heat), add sliced onion and 1 Tablespoon of mirin and saute, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes, until onion becomes soft and turn translucent (I let it caramelize a little).  Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons ground turmeric and cook, stirring constantly and mix well, be careful not to burn the turmeric!
  • Add the warm dashi broth and 1/2 cup of kaeshi to the pot , scrape the bottom of the pot,  cook for 2-3 minutes and bring to a boil.  Skim off any scum and fat from the broth.  Reduce heat then let the flavors mix and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, add the curry roux, using a strainer or chopsticks, melt the roux and blend nicely with broth mixture.
  • Turn on the heat to medium high, heat the curry, stir occasionally, making sure it will not stick and burnt on the bottom.  Using small fine mesh strainer, remove any scum.
  • Add cauliflower, carrot and zucchini mixture to curry, using medium low heat, let it simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, gently stir occasionally to prevent sticking and don’t break the vegetables.  Keep it warm using low heat (and it will not burn), taste the curry and add seasoning (using kaeshi) if necessary.
  • Prepare garnish – diced apples (squeeze a bit of lemon juice to prevent it from turning “brown”) and scallions
  • Meanwhile using a separate pot, boil water to cook the sanuki udon (according to instructions approximately 1 to 2 minutes) – I prepare each serving individually
  • Turn off the heat, put udon into bowl, ladle the curry over noodles, garnish with diced apples, scallions and fukujinzuke, now ready to serve and enjoy!
  • If you are adding ground or sliced pork to this dish, lightly saute the pork in the beginning and set it aside, add the meat last when vegetables are cooked, bring curry to boil and turn off heat immediately, the meat will cook through and remain juicy!

Where to shop for ingredients in Vancouver: Fujiya (Japanese groceries, fukujinzuke is available – 912 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC), Nikuya (11220 Voyageur Way, Richmond, BC – for sliced pork), T and T Supermarket (Various locations – for Sakura Farms ground pork), Japanese Soul Cooking (Available at Indigo, Amazon, I purchased mine from Crate and Barrel at Oakridge Centre).

RECIPE: Salmon and Leek Potato Crusted Pie

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The pie I made for Thanksgiving Dinner – this picture was selected and made it to this week’s Vancouver Sun Gastropost.

My sister-in-law Marcia is a pescatarian/vegetarian and a serious dessert/chocolate connoisseur; for almost every Festive family dinner gatherings when a “meat” dish is usually the main event, our mother-in-law would happily make our family’s favourite “Not real sushi – California rolls” (recipe already posted) or baked a salmon fillet for her, changing the sauce (Teriyaki, beurre blanc) each time.  Although she enjoyed them always, it became a routine…

I decided to change things up just a bit after revisiting the classic recipe: I know it’s not major or “life defining” culinary moment, the thought process behind the thinner crispy potato crust (instead of usual mashed potatoes) was very simple; the “pie’ idea was inspired by Marcia’s past lovely desserts and believe my entire extended family will find this more enjoyable, it’s less carbs (haha) and less fat (from the sauce to the filling). Over time, I find myself putting even more consideration and thought into the food which I cooked for family and friends, a lot of times it is for health reasons and their preference; this is my way to express my love to those close and dear to me.

This dish, along with the juiciest turkey I’ve ever cooked together with my mother-in-law, and the sides and salads (Thanks Barb and Gina) and desserts (thanks Marcia! The chocolate truffle cake and apple galette were divine) prepared by my sisters-in-law were devoured in no time.

That was another happy busy day in the kitchen, happy meal, happy gathering, happy family moment together…I have so much to be thankful for.

On another happy note: I submitted the “pie” picture to Vancouver Gastropost for last week’s “Pie Oh My” Mission, it was selected and featured in Saturday’s weekend paper!  Thank you Vancouver Sun for the acknowledgement (OO).

Ingredients: (For 9 1/2 inch pie plate)

500 g wild sockeye salmon fillet, 2 leeks (white part only, finely sliced), 4 to 6 Yukon gold potatoes (peeled and grated into strips), Japanese panko (handful), fresh juice of 1 lemon, 1 Tablespoon fresh dill (chopped), 1-2 Tablespoon grapeseed oil, sea salt and white pepper (for seasoning), grated cheddar (as you like and it is optional) 

For Lemon dill infused bechamel: 4 cups of “tempered” unsweetened almond milk, 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh dill, peel of 1 lemon (strips), 1 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or to taste), 1/4 cup (approximately) of all-purpose flour, 3 to 4 Tablespoon grapeseed oil (traditional roux calls for butter, fat and flour is usually 1-1 ratio, I’ve used less than 3 Tablespoon of grapeseed oil). **Using grapeseed oil and unsweetened almond milk is my personal choice.

Preparation:

One Day Ahead: Prepare Lemon dill infused Bechamel Sauce

– In 4 quart Sauce pan, start “tempering” and flavouring of almond milk: (this is an important step as cold milk will result in lumpy and grainy sauce)

– Rinse saucepan with cold water (do not wipe dry – this will prevent the fats and protein from scorching the bottom of the saucepan), add unsweetened almond milk, then the aromatics – sprigs of fresh dill, lemon peel, bay leaf.

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Flavours are steeping and simmering away!

– Using medium low heat, bring liquid to a simmer (Do not bring to a boil), turn off the heat, cover with lid and let the flavours steep for at least 15 minutes (I did for 20 minutes).

– The hot milk should now be ready; it can now be strained into a measuring cup. Discard all flavouring ingredients.

– Wipe the saucepan clean, over medium low heat, start making the white roux (combining fat and starch together): add olive oil to saucepan, when oil begins to bubble, begin adding flour, keep stirring to form a smooth thin paste.  The flour should be incorporated into the olive oil fully, continue to cook the roux by stirring constantly over medium low heat in order to prevent scorching (burning), the process should be no longer than 2 minutes (white roux does not take on colour), you are looking for a smooth and thin consistency (not thick and lumpy).

– Once the roux is ready, add hot milk to hot roux a bit a time while constantly whisking (easy to use a flat whisk) or stirring (spatula), let the mixture come back to a simmer each time before adding more hot milk.  Once all the milk has been added, bring it to a gentle simmer while stirring.  Lower The heat and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, pot uncovered (important), in order to cook out the starch flavour.  Be careful not to bring to a boil as sauce will burn or split. Using a whisk, stir occasionally, make sure you scrape the bottom edges of the pot. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon nicely, once it finishes cooking, turn off heat, season to taste with sea salt and white pepper (optional). Strain the sauce into one more time for a silky smooth texture.

Whisking Away!
Whisking Away!

– To store properly, pour sauce into a glass bowl and place a plastic wrap over the hot bechamel,  when cooled completely, refrigerate. The sauce will thicken considerably; to reheat the next day, add a little water (or stock) to the cold bechamel, stir and bring to a simmer.

Preparation on The Day Of:

– Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F (to bake the salmon).

– Clean and pat dry salmon fillet with paper towel, using tweezers (I keep one for cooking) remove pin bones.

– Place salmon fillet (skin side down) in baking tray.  Mix 1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil and lemon juice in a small bowl, and drizzle over the salmon.  Season by evenly with chopped dill, sea salt and fresh ground pepper (optional) to taste. Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until salmon is easily flaked with a fork; the salmon should still be pinkish and moist.

– While salmon is baking, peel and grate (or using a knife to slice) the potatoes into thin strips, place in a sieve, add 1 teaspoon of salt.  Squeeze out as much liquid as you can with your hands; leave to drain for 10 to 15 minutes.  Repeat the process again with another teaspoon of salt, leave for another 10 minutes and again squeeze hard to remove as much moisture as possible. Pat dry with paper towel, cover and set aside.

–  Once salmon is cooled considerably (don’t burn yourself!), start “flaking” the salmon by using a fork, the flakes should come off the skin easily. Flake them in “bite-size” (not large chunks), do not include salmon skin, make sure all bones have been removed.  Set aside

– In saucepan reheat the bechamel sauce by adding a little water to the cold sauce, stir and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat when ready.

– In separate 6 quart pot, add drizzle of grapeseed oil over medium heat.  Add the leek and cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until soft but not browned, then add salmon flakes. Turn off and remove from heat, using a spatula, slowly and gently “fold in” bechamel sauce (a few spoonfuls at a time) with salmon mixture. the filling should not appear runny (Do not stir)

– Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F.

– Mix the grated potato strips with a handful of Japanese panko. Lightly brush the bottom of the 9 1/2 inch pie plate (mine is my Mom’s  “vintage” Pyrex) with grapeseed oil, then sprinkle with chopped dill.  Then pour the salmon filling, and top with the grated potatoes in an even layer, lightly brush the potatoes with just a little grapeseed oil, the crust should brown nicely.

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Depend on your liking, you can put more potatoes. Remember to layer them evenly!

– Place on a baking tray in the oven and cook for 40 to 45 minutes, or until heated through and bubbling, the potato crust should be golden brown and crispy. Serve immediately.

Notes:

Bechamel sauce and salmon flakes can be made one day ahead; just remember to let all prepared foods cooled down, store in proper containers before refrigerate.

I actually prepared this salmon flakes and the bechamel the day before our family’s Thanksgiving gathering; it’s all about “mise en place” – getting organized and give yourself some breathing room on the day of!

If you choose to make the bechamel sauce at the same time, prepare it while the salmon is baking in the oven. Have to work pretty quickly!

Bechamel sauce, also known as white sauce, is made from roux (butter/flour) and milk.  It is a “mother sauce” in French and Italian cuisines, and used as a base for other sauces (for example French Mornay sauce – add cheese to bechamel), so it’s handy to learn how to make the base properly.  The choice of herbs to flavour the milk can be changed according to recipe.

The bechamel sauce cooking method is something I’ve learnt through the online cooking school Rouxbe; I am a life-time registered student/member for amateur programs.  Their instructional videos are very informative, the instructions I’ve written are based on the narration.  For serious home cooks, it may be worthwhile to register (http://rouxbe.com/); they also have professional programs available.

– Be mindful with the seasoning as salt is used to season all ingredients separately (especially the potatoes, salt was needed to “draw” the water), you don’t want to end up with a very salty pie!

– Always adjust all seasoning according to your taste and dietary needs.

– As I’m only a home cook,  I’ve tried my best to record the measurements while I was preparing this dish, please feel free to adjust if necessary.

– Adding cheese (grated cheddar) is optional as it makes the dish “heavier”: I did when I made this pie (see main picture) for Thanksgiving dinner, I skipped when I made our smaller home pot-pies for dinner, which I served with peas for dinner.  Enjoy (OO)!

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Smaller versions I made at home
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Voila!