Saturday, August 17, 2013

DISH | A country adventure + grilled corn, avocado & tomato salad

So, we've got some news.

It's a few weeks coming but better late then never. This right here is our new home for the next month or so. Pretty amazing right?

If perhaps you have a hankering to move out to the country to retire or start your own lil' bed and breakfast, you can also buy it. Yup, that's right the guest house is for sale. Steeped in history, Oakdale, its former estate name, is full of the kind of character you just can't reproduce these days. It's well worth a drive to Maitland just to see it.

You see, the man and I have left our city digs to help a friend. I'm rocking the kitchen at his resto Bing's Eatery & Socialhouse (also for sale by the way) and he's put the tool belt back on. Quite the working holiday.

But that's not the only news. 

Since we've been here, a few cool things have happened. First, I was on CBC with the awesome Simon Thibault chatting food obsession, tree planting, and even whipping up some mint brownies. You can find both the recipe and podcast on CBC Information Morning's site.

Then, I went and made it to the second round in the Halifax Food Blogger + Local Conections Sausage Fest 2013 Recipe Contest with this bad boy. If you are in the city this Sunday, head to the Incredible Picnic & Sausage BBQ event at the Halifax Seaport Market to see who takes homes first. There's also two other cooking contests full of sausage love plus loads more sausage to shove in that pie hole. I'd make plans to be there.

Lastly, there's a few other projects I've been working on but that's all top secret for now. And that new blog site? It's on it's way real soon, finished or not. In fact, this will be my last post at the old blogspot. I hope you're ready for it cuz shit is gettin' real.

And what better way to welcome a country adventure than a simple salad you can throw together with last night's leftover grilled corn.

Grilled Corn, Avocado & Tomato Salad

blogger life: can you spot it?!

4 ears corn, grilled, cooled and kernels cut from cob
2 avocados, cubed

2 tomatoes, diced
8 green onions, sliced
Handful cilantro, chopped

1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon chipotle puree (or less if you can't handle the heat!)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk together dressing. Combine with remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 4-6.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

DINE | Street eats: The Food Wolf does hot dogs proud

Graham Cracker Fread, hand model extraordinaire
I know you've all seen it. Those episodes of Eat St. full of steamed pork buns, fusion tacos,
and insane donuts that would make even a Krispy Kream look like a whole grain muffin. Seems the whole world is getting their street eat on, leaving us here on the East Coast crying into our greasy food truck fish n' chips. Not that there's anything wrong with a good ol' Maritime fish n' chip feast but where's my Schnitzlewich?

Even Montreal, where selling anything out of a truck was illegal for more than 60 years, recently overturned the old law to allow for more than 40, some operated by the city's best restaurants. So what's up Halifax? Luckily, with several gourmet trucks currently hitting our streets, we are well on our way to a booming food truck culture.

Bring on the street eats.

Blazing the trail were Nomad Gourmet and The Food Wolf, both serving the hungry masses for about a year now. In fact, though not as well known, Soups on the Move has been ladling out the hot stuff to Burnside workers since 2011. Then all of a sudden there were three more joining the ranks this summer: Bite Me Urban Diner, Under Pressers, and Tin Pan Alley. And they could not be more varied. From chicken and waffles to chorizo chilli frites to deep fried Oreos, there's nothing I don't want to stuff in my face.

But like most cities, the food truck scene in Halifax is rife with restrictions. There's but seven site licenses around the city, dictating hours of operation and making mobility, one of the perks of being on wheels, rather impossible. Once all those spots are occupied like they are now, that's it for us. No sharing of spots, no new trucks. Thankfully some trucks have bypassed the law by operating in private lots. A perfectly legal manoeuvre, it allows others to bring street eats to areas of the city not designated under the bylaw.

Enter The Food Wolf. Set up in so-called Squiggle Park at the corner of Faulkland and Gottingen streets, the Wolf serves up Korean and Asian fusion to North End's hungriest. On any given day the locally sourced menu can include kimchi quesadillas, Korean pork burgers, Mexican beef tacos, green onion pancakes, and the hot dog of all hot dogs, the K-Dawg. Smothered in bacon, kimchi, a spicy Korean mayo, and a generous garnish of sesame seeds and green onions, it's got addiction written all over it. A hot dog a day can't be bad right?

One things for sure, there's no slowing down for Team Food Wolf, Natalie Chavarie, Virgil Muir and Eric Gunnels. They even recently loaded the truck on a freight-liner bound for New Brunswick to feed the hungry concert goers at SappyFest.  Food truck love at its finest. Whether you dig Korean or Asian or not, I have a feeling the Wolf will change your mind. They even have a new age app so you can track their location. Social media for the win.

But the good news doesn't stop there. A few food trucks are rocking the streets outside of city limits. Find the Growlin' Grumman serving up burger, fries and poutine in Windsor, the Orange Ukele, a grilled cheese truck rolling around the Annapolis Valley, Amby's Eats dishing up tacos, inventive burgs, and risotto balls in New Glasgow, not to mention all the fish n' chip trucks you can find just about everywhere.

If you haven't guessed it already, I'm going to cross every truck off my list one by one. Because, let's be real, I just can't help myself.

Monday, August 5, 2013

DISH | Chorizo Baked Eggs, a Sausage Fest 2013 original

When Alex of Local Connections first hinted at Sausage Fest 2013, I was immediately thrilled. A whole week dedicated to the sausage? Count me in. Plus, it seemed only natural that the Halifax Food Bloggers throw together a recipe contest where sausage was the star. With several local producers of some amazing sausage, it would make for an interesting, not to mention delicious, challenge.

When I sat down and thought about what sausage to feature, it was an easy decision. I'm madly in love with all things Charcuterie Ratinaud and their chorizo was no different. The spicy pork would make the perfect base to putaneggonit.

Oh yes, I did it again.

Last week, while finishing up some last minute things which included saying goodbye to my cooking class crew and recording a CBC segment with Simon Thibault in which we whipped up my famous (well, according to treeplanters at least!) mint brownies, I also somehow found time to cook and shoot my recipe. You see, Brent and I have embarked on a new adventure for the remainder of the summer which takes us to Maitland, NS. But that's another post. You'll wanna stay tuned for that one.

With the deadline looming, here I am sitting at the kitchen table in my new country home writing away.   So, without further adieu, I give you...

Chorizo Baked Eggs

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 2 chorizo sausages, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 whole chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3-4 eggs
  • garnish: green onions, cilantro, feta cheese, avocado 

Preheat oven to 375. 

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions til browned. Add garlic and cook 2 min more. Add remaining ingredients except eggs, being sure to crumble the sausage into the sauce. Reduce heat and simmer 15 min.

Crack eggs on top and bake until just set, about 8 min.

Serve garnished with sliced green onions, cilantro, crumbled feta cheese and a side of avocado slices.

Serves 2-4.

Be sure to stay peeled to the Halifax Food Blogger's facebook page for all the entries. We'll also announce the top three recipes that will go head to head August 18th at the Incredible Picnic & Sausage BBQ, the closing Sausage Fest 2013 event that is not to be missed. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

DISH | cherry meringue two ways

mini cherry pavlovas

cherry eton mess

In case it isn't abundantly clear, blogging is quickly becoming an obsession. Sure there's the huge time commitment from the many hours redesigning and developing recipes but it's quickly becoming more of an identity than I ever thought possible. And that's got me thinking. When did cooking become my passion? What is the future for eathalifax? Who am I in the kitchen?

Sometimes I forget just how much cooking is in my blood. What might seem a daunting culinary task to some is second nature to me. It's rare that I follow a recipe and even developing recipes can prove difficult with my season-as-I-go approach. I'm not saying there aren't huge flops in my kitchen but generally ingredients simply come together. Cooking just happens.

Today was no different. After snagging a pint of local cherries from Noggins, my local seven-days-a-week-farmer's market, it was off to the kitchen to let the magic happen. With summer in full effect and temperatures steadily hovering around 30, a light dessert was all I would consider. Noticing some egg whites all alone in the fridge, meringue seemed like the natural choice.

And, yes, I can simply jam those egg whites in Big Red and follow my instincts. Perhaps that sounds crazy but that's just how I've always done it. It was finally time to slow down, measure, and take a minute to ponder just why I'm here doing what I'm doing.

Now this is simply a recipe for cherry meringue with which I made two dishes: mini cherry pavlovas and cherry eton mess. For both you will need to macerate the cherries. Simply pit the cherries then roughly chop/mash them with a sprinkle of sugar. Let them sit to release their juices. When the meringue is cool, you can make some whipped cream. A great trick I somehow stumbled upon during my tree planting days, most likely because the beaters were dirty, is to make it in the food processor. Simply add the cream and turn it on. Sprinkle in some sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla (both to taste) and process til thick. You can even even hear the point when it is ready; it becomes quieter and you no longer hear liquid sloshing around. It's quite amazing actually. But be warned. If you forget about it and it goes past this point, you're on your way to butter. Though that can't be a bad thing can it?

For the mini pavlovas, fill the meringue shells with the macerated cherries then the whip. For the eton mess, simply layer crushed meringue cookies or shells with macerated cherries and whip then repeat. I like to think of eton mess as a trifle's naughty cousin, where the soft, delicate cake is replaced with the unexpected crusty meringue. It's especially great if your meringue cracks or breaks. Whip this up and no one would know you planned anything but an incredible dessert. Garnish both with a cherry and prepare to impress.

cherry meringue two ways 

  • 4 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Luxardo Maraschino liquor 
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 200.
  2. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar til soft peaks form. Gradually add in the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until stiff peaks form and meringue is no longer gritty. Beat in the Luxardo.
  3. For mini pavlova, drop large spoonfuls on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread into small circles, leaving the edges higher so a nest forms in the middle.
  4. For cookies, fit a piping bag with a large star tip. Fill with the meringue and pipe in rows. Alternatively, drop by the teaspoonful.
  5. Bake for about 1 1/2 hour til dry and crisp. I generally turn the oven off and leave them in there til completely dry. You can even do this overnight.
  6. This makes a lot of meringue. Think 8-10 nests PLUS a dozen or so cookies. You could even make a single layered pavlova if perhaps you wanted to attempt this masterpiece.

Friday, July 19, 2013

CHEW ON THIS | Your weekend plans

The weekend is finally here. Don't let that rain slow you down cuz you got eating to do. If you know what's good for you, you'll drop everything and get in on these.

1. Tidal Bay Seafood Fest with Grand Pre WIne and Restaurant Le Caveau + Luckett Vineyards. Local seafood and Nova Scotia Wine? Win win.

2. George's Island Picnic in the Past. Local picnic lunches plus a trip to George's Island sounds pretty rad.

3. Park Avenue Oven Community Class with Chef Dave Smart of Front & Central. Wood fired veggie enchiladas. Nuff said.

4. Summer in the City Wine + Food Tasting at Cut Grill. Daytime drinking is one of my favourite pastimes.

Plus, Pride hits the City this weekend and there's even the Nova Scotia Designer Craft Show in Victoria Park til Sunday.  How's that for weekend plans.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

TREK | A Valley tour in photos

I swear everytime I visit the valley, I fall in love all over again. 

Just Us Coffee Roaster Co-op
Just Food! Farm
Just Food! Farm
Domaine de Grand Pre Wines
Korean short rib deliciousness at Le Caveau
Tangled Garden 
Tangled Garned
Tangled Garden
Tangled Garden
Typical Nova Scotia: the thistle
the money shot at Tangled Garden
Wolfville Farmers Market

Monday, July 15, 2013

READ | Maritime Fresh: a review + walnut scape pesto

Recently, Nimbus Publishing, an Atlantic Canadian publishing house, contacted me about reviewing some local cookbooks. Yes, I know. Lucky as all hell. Included was Maritime Fresh, a cookbook featuring local produce with recipes by Elisabeth Bailey and photography by Halifax Food Blogger's very own Kelly Neil. In addition to the gorgeous photos, there's well over 120 recipes full of local goodness and loads of resources to help navigate the local bounty. 

More of a resource cookbook, with recipes grouped according to ingredient, it's the perfect book for beginner cooks as well as those looking for inspiration from their market or CSA finds. Though most recipes are basic and easy to execute, the variety of recipes is huge, everything from preserves to soups to desserts and everything in between.

When I first flipped through the book looking for that one recipe to try, I landed at walnut scape pesto. Lately it seemed like everyone was in love with garlic scapes, the shoots from a garlic bulb described as part garlic part green bean. Yet here I was wondering what all the fuss was about. I'd just have to remedy that. So what do you do when you're looking to acquire some local goodies? Announce it on twitter. Naturally. My local market clerk extraordinaire Brianna, who also happens to be a fellow Halifax Food Blogger, just so happened to respond. Oh, you want to GIVE me scapes grown in your garden? You're starting to get a little annoyed with that horse shoe I may or may not have stored in a place that shall not be named aren't you?

A five minute walk later and viola. I mean how COOL are these scapes?! With the rest of the ingredients already in the kitchen, it was pesto time. Honestly, this recipe couldn't be easier. Chop, grate, puree, period. One taste of this pesto and I was wondering what the hell I'd been doing living so long without scapes in my life. Super fresh with that great garlic bite, I could probably eat this with a spoon. Instead it's bound for some grilled stuffed portobellos along with panko, goat cheese and most likely bacon. Sounds amazing amiright?

For more info on Maritime Fresh or details on how you can pick up your own copy, check with Nimbus.  And if you too have been living without these bad boys, hit up a farmer's market in your area and get some before they're gone for the season.  All that fuss? It's legit.

Walnut Scape Pesto

  • 20-25 garlic scapes, green parts only, chopped
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup crumbled walnuts
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree.

Friday, July 12, 2013

THIRSTY | Propeller brings craft beer to the Darkside

{Now I know I've already eluded to big changes at eathalifax and they are coming. I'm no web designer over here so it's taking much of my time. But that doesn't mean the posts will stop in the meantime. Here's a sneak peak, sort of, of the new format...}

After 16 years of wetting the whistles of Halifax's North End, Propeller Brewing Co.  has opened up a second shop on the Darkside. Hey, I live in Dartmouth so I can call it that. Besides, it is quickly becoming the Brooklyn of the HRM. It's where the cool kids at. Or something like that.

I've had mad love for the Propeller IPA and Extra Special Bitter for years now though honestly I'd pound back any of their craft beers. Now with the new location, grabbing a growler or 6-pack just got easier. Situated ironically across from Sleemans on Windmill Rd, the new cold beer store is slick and more modern than the rustic, wood filled original. Offering a few beers on tap for growler refills, a stocked fridge, glassware and even t's, they've got your beer needs covered.  Plus, they're open daily 12-8. It really doesn't get any easier to support local.

I don't know how you're celebrating the start of your weekend but we just cracked a growler of Bitter goodness. Giddy up.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Canadian Food Experience Project: the Atlantic lobster roll

There's something pretty amazing happening in the Canadian food blogging scene. After connecting with so many incredible bloggers from across the country at FBC2013, Valerie at A Canadian Foodie decided to band everyone together in one huge celebration of Canadian food. And so was born the The Canadian Food Experience Project. Started June 7th, we (and there are many!) share our stories of regional food experiences in hopes of creating a Canadian culinary identity. Last month I was too busy to share my authentic Canadian food memory but despite a blog redesign still in the works, I'm finally on board. This month participating bloggers from across the country are sharing stories of Canadian Regional Foods.

If I was to ask you what food you believe screams Nova Scotia, I bet I'd know your answer.

You got it, lobster. And it's true; here on the Atlantic Ocean, lobster is a big part of who we are as Nova Scotians. We all have at least one lobster fisherman friend and our parents and grandparent even grew up on the stuff.  I know it's crazy but the now high-priced delicacy was once the poor man's food. Oh, how times have changed.

Growing up in Pictou, lobster was everywhere, from the lobster boats docked at the wharf to the signs nailed to every lamppost downtown during the annual Lobster Carnival. In its 79th year, Carnie, as we affectionately came to call it, celebrates the industry that's always been central to Pictou's economy. Along with the usual midway rides, live music, and parades, there's also the lobster boat races, lobster banding competition, and, of course, the lobster suppers at the curling club. Not the elaborate lobster-already-cracked-served-with-fancy-sides kind of lobster supper but rather the traditional potato-salad-white-roll-bib on-hands-all-up-in-there kind of lobster supper we're known for here on the East Coast. If you have yet to experience one, get out that Bucket List. 

We even spent our summers on lobster boats converted into mere pleasure crafts. We'd pack the boats with friends and sail off into the Pictou Harbour bound for Sandy's Cove. Once anchored just off shore, the BBQ would be lit, beers cracked, and one by one we'd  jump into the warm, crystal clear Northumberland. Sometimes several boats would arrive, each one tying up to the next, creating an instant party. Those were the days. 

So you see, lobster and I, we're tight. Usually, Brent and I can't wait for the start of the season, May at home, so it's rather hard to believe it took us til July to finally get our hands on our favourite crustacean. Though I would have preferred to buy directly from my friend at home, the fish market in Eastern Passage was going to have to do. Luckily, it's on the way home from the beach. 

Three live lobsters later, we decided we'd depart from the usual steamed or boiled and try something new. With temperatures in the high 30s this past weekend, it was no surprise our minds immediately went to BBQ. I didn't think it was possible for lobster to get any more delicious but add that smokey charcoal flavour and bam. Best. Lobster. Ever. But when deciding what recipe to share, grilled lobster just didn't seem right. Then I remembered there's always one thing we make sure to have leftovers for, lobster rolls.

Other than the traditional lobster supper, there is nothing more Nova Scotian than the lobster roll. Right now Taste of Nova Scotia is even touring around Ontario in a food truck spreading the lobster roll love. You can add additional flavour to the mayo like I did with the lemon but this is pretty much as straight up as a lobster roll gets. Call me old fashioned, but it just ain't a lobster roll without the white hot dog bun. I even walked all over town in the mad heat in search of them. That's how much it meant to me.

The lobster for this was simply boiled then allowed to cool overnight. Next time I would definitely grill it and create the best lobster roll of all time. Lastly, be prepared to get messy. Spread a ton of newspaper over a table, get out a sharp knife and some sort of pokey instrument like a fork, and get all up in that lobster. Just don't be surprised when you smell like lobster for the rest of the day. That's part of the charm.

the Atlantic lobster roll

  • 1 1/3 lb lobster, cooked, cooled, shelled and chopped 
  • 3 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • squeeze lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 hot dog buns
  • handful lettuce
  • 2 green onions, sliced
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine lobster, mayo, lemon zest and juice, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. 
  2. Serve on a fresh or buttered and toasted (there exists a great divide here as to the proper lobster roll!) with lettuce and green onions.
  3. This is a light lunch for two but god damn I could eat the whole thing myself.
Be sure to follow #CanadianFood on twitter for all the action but I'll post Valerie's roundup for the project mid-month so you too can join in on the Canadian Food Experience Project.

Friday, June 21, 2013

DISH | tis the season: strawberry shortcake

As soon as that warm summer sun makes an appearance, we here in Nova Scotia get excited. Sure the arrival of our short beach season is reason enough to be ecstatic but for me and many others it marks a sudden jump in the variety of local produce. First the rhubarb hits and people go mad. I even acquired 12 lbs of the tart stuff from Noggins in Alderney Landing, my local 7-days-a-week market a mere 5 minute walk from the house. We are one lucky community. With a new juicer occupying prime counter real estate, some of that rhubarb got juiced and canned. I see many a rhubarb cocktail in my future.

Lately it's the local strawberries that are all the craze. Last year we went strawberry picking in Truro, scoring well over 20 lbs. In fact, we only just finished the strawberries in the freezer though many a jar of jam remains in the cupboard. Anyone up for some jam? I'd be happy to tradsies.

This season, however, some U-picks may sadly stay closed. The news came out several weeks ago that two strawberry viruses teamed up to deliver a big blow to this year's crop. Devastating I know. I chatted with Chris Webster of Webster Farms in Kings County who, like many others, had no choice but to destroy much of their fields in an effort to stop the spread. Apparently, strawberry mild yellow-edge virus and strawberry mottle virus are relatively common and generally harmless when only one is present. But put the two together and strawberry plants become weakened, producing tiny fruit or none at all. We can thank our lucky stars the viruses don't affect humans. What's most interesting though is an outbreak like this hasn't been seen in Nova Scotia for years, well at least the 60 years Webster Farms has been operating. Most research to date has attributed the spread to the strawberry aphid though nothing has yet to be confirmed. What is certain is that we will see less strawberries this season and our strawberry farmers will be stuck with the financial burden. Damn aphids.

Despite the loss of more than 40% of our harvest, the berries are now gracing market shelves across the province including my very own Noggins. As the official dessert of summer, I'm pretty sure everyone immediately starts making strawberry shortcake the minute a pint is acquired. It's even the token dessert at many a lobster supper. So obviously what was I to do with my first pint but make some. But you know me, no plain ol' shortcake was going to suffice. Not that I don't like kicking it traditional with biscuits, berries and whip but my moms had recently-ok not so recently-given me some cool mini cake pans and I finally knew exactly what to do with them. And so I give you the eathalifax strawberry shortcake: mint & honey macerated strawberries + lemon olive oil cake + clotted cream.

Yes I did.

Strawberry Shortcake

mint + honey macerated strawberries

1 pint strawberries, sliced (Noggins)
2 tbsp fresh mint, chiffonade (Riverview herbs)
drizzle local honey (Ash Hill Farm)

First things first, combine the mint, honey and berries. The longer you leave them the more the juices will be drawn out of the berries. We left ours overnight thus the dark green strands of mint and soft, crimson berries. I wish I had taken the photo the same day. Live and learn.

lemon olive oil cake

1/3 cup milk + squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 + 3 tbsp sugar
rind of 1 lemon
1 egg
2 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil (Liquid Gold)

lemon syrup

1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar

English clotted cream or whip cream

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour six mini cake pans of your choice. Combine the milk with the  lemon juice and let sit. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, being sure to mix well. No one likes the taste of baking powder ok. Whisk together the sugar, zest, and olive oil. Add in the egg and milk. Combine the wet with the dry, making sure not to over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake 15-18 min or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool several minutes before inverting on a wire rack.

Combine the syrup ingredients in a pot and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. When the cakes are cool, brush with the syrup.

Totally going against tradition, we ate ours with some clotted cream that the lovely Aimee left at our place after the first HFXFB meet up. If you haven't tried this stuff, head on down to Pete's or your local specialty grocery store and grab a jar. It's pretty much butter that tastes like cream. How can that be wrong?

Not too sweet with the added awesomeness of mint and lemon, this shortcake was everything I had hoped it would be. So this strawberry season, whatever way you shortcake, head to your nearest farmers market and send some love our farmers' way.

Monday, June 17, 2013

happy birthday to me: mushroom ramen

In case you haven't heard, my birthday has recently come and gone. I generally welcome each birthday, celebrating the happiness of the past year while looking forward to all that's to come. I'll admit, however, this one was different. Remember that cross roads I had mentioned? Well, currently my days are spent trying to figure out my next move, what career path to take before we can make our resto-cafe dreams come true. Needless to say, it's been taking its toll. So when the big day drew near, I wasn't the least bit excited.

But, like always, the clouds parted and the sun shone through. This birthday, besides the amazing gifts from the man, I got to spend my birthday with a crew of food bloggers from across Canada. Nothing like a twitter party to lift the spirits and remind you of everything you have to be grateful for. The party celebrated the release of Get Your Grill On with Turkey & Mushrooms, an e-book collaboration between Mushrooms Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada and ten of Canada's best food bloggers, many of whom I had the pleasure of meeting at FBC2013. I was beyond thrilled when Mushrooms Canada asked me to moderate the party because, if there is one thing I love more than anything, it's talking food. Despite it being the fastest hour of my life, I wouldn't have spent my birthday any other way. Big thanks to the team at Mushrooms Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada and all the participating bloggers for making my day. Plus, the e-book is nothing short of incredible. I suggest hitting up the Mushrooms Canada and Tasty Turkey facebook pages, throwing a like their way, then getting your download on. These are 20 recipes sure to spices up your summer grilling.

But what this post is really about is the Back to the Roots grow your own mushroom kit. Part of the unbelievable swag at the FBC conference, Mushrooms Canada graciously gave all attendees a kit to take home. Somehow in all the craziness (like the lack of power during registration perhaps), I had totally forgot to snag one. As the weeks went by and the instagram pics started surfacing with the mushroom play by play, I knew I had missed out big time. But, lucky me, the awesome ladies of Mushrooms Canada whom I enjoyed a nightcap with at the conference went ahead and mailed me one anyway so I could get in on the action.

And action is exactly what I got. Both Brent and I became mesmerized, rushing to the windowsill each morning to see the progress. It was as if you could stand there and literally watch them grow. We even harvested at day 9, a day earlier than expected. I don't know what's going on in our house but I can't wait to turn that box over and do it all over again. Uh huh, the kits can magically produce up to four mushroom harvests. You have got to hit up Back to the Roots to order one for yourself. Even better, share a pic of your fully grown mushrooms on their facebook page and they'll send a kit to a school of your choice. How cool is that?

I know right!
I eat mushrooms on the regular so when these bad boys were ready, I could easily have put them in just about anything. These oyster mushrooms, however, were destined for something bigger, something I've been obsessed with lately. If you read my last post - wait, what? you haven't? Stop everything right now and get on that! - it'll be no surprise that I went ahead and made me some ramen.

Needing some key ingredients, I jumped on the new ride (I also got an ol' school bike for the bday) and pedalled my way to an Asian grocery store here in Dartmouth. I was hoping to make my own dashi with kombu and bonito but they carried neither. Looks like it's commercial dashi stock for me. Have I lost you yet?

This recipe may not have the depth of flavor of proper ramen but it's quick and easy and mad delish. It's also one of those things that can be topped with just about anything, including the almighty egg. #putaneggonit

Mushroom Ramen

Serves 2-4

2 tsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp ginger, minced
3 cup sliced mushrooms, shitake & oyster
2 cup chicken stock (homemade of course)
2 cup boiling water
2 tbsp dashi
2 tbsp soy sauce
200 g ramen (4 blocks)
1/2 cup spinach, chopped
4 green onions, diced (we also grew these in the windowsill!)
2 eggs, soft boiled
1/2 cup corn, cooked

In a large pot, heat the sesame oil over medium high. Cook the garlic, ginger, and mushrooms about 5 minutes. Add in the chicken stock. Dissolve the dashi in the boiling water. Add to the pot and simmer 10 - 20 min, depending on how hangry you are. Season to taste with soy sauce. If you favour a clear broth, simply strain, reserving the mushrooms for the top.

To soft boil the eggs, boil 6 min. Remove and rinse with cold water.

For the ramen, bring a pot to a boil. Add the noodles and cook til tender. The timing will depend entirely on your noodles. The Rooster brand instant noodles take about 2 min. Drain.

To assemble, pour the broth into two bowls. Add in noodles. Top with spinach, egg, corn, green onions, mushrooms, and as much nori as you like. Some recipes want you to wilt the spinach but why bother when the hot broth will do that for you?

With this being so incredibly easy, no doubt my ramen obsession will be brought to a whole new level.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

FEED | Mr. Noodles meet your match: Truly Tasty Ramen & Dumplings

You know what's been taking the world by storm lately? No not bacon. Not gourmet burgers either (fyi, that trend hit the rest of the world WAY before Hali.) Give up? It's ramen. Not the packaged 50 cent Mr. Noodles of your student days but rather the expertly designed bowls of tender noodles swimming in delicious meat infused broth. Just look at the success of the Momofuku empire and tell me you don't want to slurp those noodles right into your pie hole. And pork belly with my noodles? I'll take two.

Though it may not seem like it, I've lived a rarther sheltered food life.  I do, after all, live on the East Coast. We may have loads of amazing food here but sometimes the variety of ethnic food is, shall we say, limited. Without a local ramen joint for years, I had no idea of it's complexity or the many ramen varieties let alone what even constituted "ramen".

Then I found this. Sometimes you just need things simplified.

Armed with my new found ramen knowledge, it was finally time to get in on the action. With but one ramen resto in the city, it was high time to pay Truly Tasty Ramen & Dumplings a visit.

Unlike a lot of other ethnic restaurants in the city with their dusty rose carpets and menu pic adorned walls, Truly Tasty is quite nice. Modern decor and minimalist design sets a simple yet comfy atmosphere. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting. The menu is similarly minimal with but a few bowls of ramen, some dumplings, and a couple Japanese appies. It being our first time, might as well go with the House Special ramen. Wait a minute, you're out of pork belly? Excuse me while I go cry in the bathroom. BBQ pork will just have to suffice.

Within minutes our steaming bowls arrived accompanied by sides of bean sprouts in sesame oil, crispy fried garlic, and chile oil. Now, like I said, I don't know a damn thing about ramen. So in depth descriptions and comparisons to the great noodle bowls of the world ain't happening. What I can tell you is that I loved it. The broth was super flavourful, the stuff that long simmering's made of, and the pork was melt in your mouth tender, possessing it's own slightly sweet, almost 5 spice flavour. Some of Mr. Ramen's friends were also present, namely corn, green onions, and a soft boiled egg. And we all know how I feel about #putaneggonit. There were also pickled onions which I pretty much enjoy on just about anything. Missing however was the infamous fishcake, Ms. Naruto. Damn, I really wanted to meet her.  Regardless, I slurped up every last bite, even adding all the sides to create a more savoury, spicy broth.

Word on the street is that a second ramen joint Tako has just opened in the suburbian land of ethnic food, Clayton Park. With the ramen obsession in full effect (I may have just made my own. Recipe coming soon!) you bet I'll be making the trek soon.

But the best part aside from the eating of course was that while writing this, I also watched the ramen movie of all ramen movies, Tampopo. Set in Japan in the 80's, it follows a truck driver who stops at a small town noodle shop then vows to help the widow-run shop become the best in town. Cuz it's the trucker you trust to teach you the ways of the ramen right?! You've going to wanna head to the nearest video store and rent this one folks. Filled with completely random scenes exploring the love of food (and boy do I mean RANDOM!),  it truly speaks to the art of ramen. Big thanks to an instagram friend @chezwu for suggesting it. Jumped right on down that ramen rabbit hole and I'm never looking back.