Sunday, May 26, 2013

FARM-MARKET-TABLE: fiddlehead + bacon pizza

With but two hours to the deadline, here I am finally finishing my submission to the Halifax Food Bloggers' FARM-MARKET-TABLE recipe contest, in which all ingredients must be sourced from the Halifax Seaport Market. Life's been busy and, believe me when I say, it was an even busier weekend. Like birthday party, chili judging, baby shower, anniversary dinner kind of weekend. I even met up with Christine, a Montreal food blogger, who accompanied me on my shopping trip to the market. I felt so proud showing her our incredible love of local here in the city.

Speaking of anniversary, this past Friday marked eight years since Brent and I started dating. Eight long years ago, he got off that 2 am train in Hornepayne, ON, thinking he was in for a summer of treeplanting adventure with his best friend. Little did he know that mere days later he would embark on what would become the summer of love. You see, relationships in the planting world, where your home is a tent and your community is but 80 strong, become accelerated. What would normally be a month long courtship is accomplished in days. Needless to say, we left that season madly in love and haven't looked back.

There isn't a day that goes by that I am not grateful for everything he does for me, for everything he is. So, when deciding what to make for this challenge my mind wasn't concerned with what market products to use. That would be the easy part. Instead, I wanted to make something special, something for us.

Every couple or family has their go to meal whether it's that spaghetti recipe handed down from your pops or a quick casserole. For us, that go to has always been pizza. Brent throws together the dough while I prep the toppings. It may not sound fast, but after eight years of practice, we can be eating scratch pizza sometimes within half an hour.  Because, honestly, anything can go on pizza when you open your mind. The trick though is finding that one quick and easy dough recipe. We found ours and I ain't sharing. (Also, the flour, salt, olive oil and yeast that went into the dough were not purchased at the market though they were exceptions. The oil, however, was purchased from Liquid Gold, a local oil and vinegar tasting bar.)

A quick visit to some of my market favourites and I had what I needed. Cheese, bacon, garlic, check.  But with fiddlehead season in full effect here in NS, I knew they'd make their way into my recipe somehow. And fiddleheads on pizza? Why not. Lucky for me, the fiddlehead man himself, Jason Pelley, was at the market. Score.

fiddlehead + bacon pizza

1 large pizza crust
olive oil | Liquid Gold
2 cups fiddleheads | Fiddle Hop Farm
1 cup chopped belly bacon ends | Getaway Meat Mongers
3 cloves garlic | Noggins Corner Farm
100 g quark | Fox Hill Cheesehouse
shaved Old Growler | That Dutchman's Farm

Preheat oven to 425.

In a frying pan, start cooking that bacon. Cook about 5 min then add the fiddleheads. Sauté until tender, about 10 min, adding the garlic in the last few minutes.  One word about that belly bacon from Meat Mongers. The ends are thick cut slabs of smokey goodness perfect for chopping into just about anything. Plus, it's half the price of belly bacon. Yup, half. There's a reason Ben and the boys at Meat Mongers were voted best market stall in this year's Best of Food. I can't help but visit them weekly.

Spread the dough with olive oil. Cover with the fiddleheads, bacon & garlic. Drop teaspoons of quark over the pizza. 

Bake until dough is cooked through and browned, depending of course on your dough. Finish with shaved Old Growler and fresh cracked black pepper.  

That is some straight up farm to market to table.  And I can't think of a better way to express my love than by letting local do the talking.

Happy Anniversary baby.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

this calls for a toast: lemongrass + mint daiquiri

When I woke up today, I certainly didn't expect to see a text from my friend and blogging partner in crime, Kelly, saying that we had won silver and bronze for Best Local Food Blog in this year's Coast Best of Food awards. I was thoroughly honoured just to be among the nominees but to win second place? I honestly didn't see that coming.

It has been almost three years since I started this adventure and everyday it somehow becomes more exciting. There's the event invites, the product offers, the cookbook reviews, the new blogging friendships. I even did a little food consulting. But, more importantly, there's you. You who come for recipes, to find out where to have dinner or to simply follow along on this delicious journey. You are the reason my passion continues to grow. If I can get but one of you excited about cooking or eating at a local restaurant or exploring our incredible Nova Scotia bounty, then all those hours writing and editing and photographing means something. It means it's all worth it.

So, to you I say thank you. Thank you for taking the time to vote and for your continued support on this wild ride called eathalifax. These past few months, especially with the Food Bloggers of Canada conference and the establishment of Halifax Food Bloggers, have been nothing short of amazing. Now with the confirmed support of my community, the fire is burning even brighter. So, it is with great excitement, I announce that I'm working on redesigning a whole new eathalifax. Expect a slick new look and exciting new content. But don't worry, there will still be recipes (hopefully a load of new recipes) plus reviews of all the best spots in town.

I'd say this calls for a toast don't you?

When I'm looking to celebrate, our DIY bar is the first place to start. Lately, we've become rather obsessed with cocktails. Not the sugar laden ones of our university days, but the real deal. My palate that once would have cringed at the thought of a drink with a mere 1 ounce of juice now welcomes the freshness that comes with fresh squeezed citrus and good quality alcohol. In fact, I've learned so much about cocktails that imbibing will certainly be part of that new content I mentioned.  Excited yet?

 Lemongrass & Mint Daiquiri

2 ounces white rum
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1 ounce lemongrass syrup
handful of mint

lemongrass syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped

First, make the lemongrass syrup by combing the sugar and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and add the lemongrass. The longer you let it steep, the more the flavour will develop. Strain and allow to cool before use. Store in the refrigerator up to a few days. 

Now when it comes to the cocktail, there's a specific process to follow. Don't just jam all those ingredients in your shaker! First, add the alcohol. Then the lime juice and the syrup. Take that handful of mint and give it a slap between your hands. Just trust me on this one. Now, add it to the shaker (Apparently this is where I went wrong. I should have stirred the cocktail to avoid those lil bits of mint. The ways of the cocktail are vast.)  Now fill the shaker with ice. Thank god for that ice maker, eh. Now attach whatever cover you have and shake away until the metal is thoroughly chilled and starting to frost up. To finish, double strain, yes double, into your glass. Garnish with some mint.

Though I may have been celebrating with this one by my lonesome, I know you're out there, wine or cocktail in hand, toasting along. I should probably also mention, Kelly and I were on the news again today spreading the blogging love. If you promise not to make fun of my hand talking, you can catch all the action on CTV's Live at Five Section Six

Winning silver and a TV interview in one day? I told you it was a wild ride. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

cupcakes & contests

I'll be completely honest. Lately, I'm having a hard time blogging. I feel I'm at a crossroads in my life and I can't seem to clear my head long enough to write more than two sentences. I've started many a blog post in the past few weeks only to realize I couldn't find the words to finish. Hopefully with Spring in the air and new beginnings on the horizon, my words will find their way.

It, however, doesn't stop me thinking I can enter every contest I can find. Last month, the Feisty Chef had a photo contest in celebration of her blogiversairy in which you could win a private dinner for nine with the chef herself. Simply make one of her recipes, snap a pic, and get your friends voting. I take pics of my food on the daily so I thought I'd be golden. Loving anything avocado, I decided on this chickpea, avocado, and tomato salad with a tahini za'atar dressing. I even opted to whip up my own za'atar with thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, a pinch of cumin, and salt.

chickpea, avocado & tomato salad + homemade za'atar
Caught up in life's craziness, I unfortunately waited to post with mere days to go. Though I loved how my pic turned out, I was too late to beat out team muffin. Hell, at least it forced me to make za'atar myself, switch up my salad routine, and develop my food photography. I'd say that's a win. This week we even used some leftover za'atar on homemade falafel pitas to add more depth of flavour. Win indeed.

Then, there was the Chronicle Herald cupcake photo contest last month in which you could win a KitchenAid stand mixer. I knew I wouldn't be messing around with no fondant so, with a few days left to submit, I finally found the time to bake up a cupcake that would rival any fondant masterpiece. There was the baking, the clean up, the buttercream, the clean up, the salted caramel, the photo shoot and, surprise surprise, the clean up. All totally worth it.

chocolate espresso cupcake + brown butter buttercream + caramel + sea salt
Now, I will never complain when there are over a dozen mini cupcakes sitting on my counter begging to be eaten but I was happy to be having a little party to elicit some help. Can it really be that difficult to encourage guests to eat chocolate espresso cupcakes topped with a brown butter buttercream dripping with salted caramel? Exactly. Funny enough I hadn't even tried a cupcake until a few drinks in when someone suggested we do a cupcake shot. Yes, it happened. Five of us huddled around the table, mini cupcake in hand, counting down. A whole cupcake jammed into your mouth can't be bad right? It wasn't. In fact, it was amazing.  If salty and sweet got together and had a baby, this would be it.

Did I win you ask? Funny story that. Though I had a plan, or rather thought I had a plan, I completely missed the deadline, thinking it was days later. In fact, my cupcakes were baking in the oven as the contest drew to a close. Another timing fail. But then again isn't sharing a cupcake shot with friends a total win?

Besides, there is no better prize than bringing a smile to a friend's buttercream covered face.

Haskapa, nature's little present

If you live here in Nova Scotia, you've probably been hearing some hype about haskap lately. Thanks to the folks at Haskapa the new brand at the helm of its North American launch, the haskap berry, in all in't antioxidant glory, is taking the province by storm. Originating in Siberia then later carried to Japan where it is huge, haskap is the berry of the blue honeysuckle tree, tasting like blackberry, raspberry, and blueberry all rolled into one. Though the berry has been growing in Saskatchewan since the early 2000's, Haskapa in partnership with LaHave Natural Forests have only recently started cultivating, organically I might add, the berry here in Nova Scotia. Translating to "nature's little present at the end of the branch", haskap is a health powerhouse, delivering three times the antioxidants as blueberries and more vitamin C than an orange. And I can tell you first hand the stuff is delicious.

A few weeks back Haskapa sent local bloggers a sample of juice and dried berries to gain some feedback. My mind immediately went to granola. Apparently so did Kelly who made her most beloved version of Coach Wendy J's recipe. My coconut haskap granola barely made it the week. I could eat those dried berries by the handful but I think most bloggers shared my sentiment. Asheley used the dried berries in a chicken salad and Lia used them with some Brie de Meaux to create one delicious looking hot mess. My girls Sheena and Kathy of Made With Local even added the Heavenly Haskapa to their line of all natural granola bars. 

The juice with it's deep crimson colour is also incredible, bursting with berry flavour. I'm not sure if there's a berry I don't taste in there. I obviously made a cocktail with the juice consisting of Aperol, gin, rosemary syrup, haskap juice, lemon, and rhubarb bitters. It was nothing short of delicious. Resisting the urge to chug the juice and/or make more cocktails, I decided to use it in a salad dressing. Here, paired with bacon, blue cheese, apples, and pistachios, the haskap dressings adds rich colour and a fruity tartness to the dish. If blue cheese isn't your thing, feel free to replace it with goat cheese or feta. 

Haskap + Spinach  Salad

haskap dressing

1 tablespoon haskap juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon whole grain dijon
2 teaspoons maple syrup
sea salt + fresh cracked pepper

spinach salad

3 slices bacon, sliced
3 cups spinach, torn
2 tablespoons pistachio chopped
1/2 apple, julienned
2 tablespoons blue cheese, crumbled

To get started, cook the bacon til crisp. I used an incredible local applewood smoked bacon from Oulton's and I suggest you do the same. That limp stuff in the grocery store can barely be called bacon though when it comes right down to it, I don't discriminate.

Combine dressing ingredients in a mason jar fitted with a lid and shake to combine. Alternatively, whisk together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble salad, layer remaining ingredients on a plate. Drizzle with dressing. Serves 2.

For more recipes, information on where you can purchase or sample Haskapa products (there's even an ice cream!), please visit their website

Sunday, May 5, 2013

brunchin: The Coastal Cafe

Oh brunch, that heavenly marriage between breakfast and lunch. The meal where burgers join eggs benedict at the table, where daytime drinking is encouraged, where sleeping in is rewarded with eggs well into the afternoon. With brunch in the city being an almost exclusive weekend affair, you'd be hard pressed to get your eggy fix during the week save but a few diners with all day breakfasts or the generic 20 page menu at the one brunch franchise. Serving up brunch 6 whole days a week, it's just one more reason The Coastal Cafe is at the top of my list.

It being my third post professing my love, there's really no surprise Coastal is my brunch go to. But here's the thing, it has counter service, the coffee is only ok (snob alert) and, with about 25 seats and a lineup of folks learing at you as you finish your meal, the atmosphere may not be the best in the city. Back it up. You're telling me the best brunch in the city doesn't have great coffee, doesn't have table service (though they do a combo of table/counter service so tip 'em well), and doesn't have amazing atmosphere? Hells yes I am. At Coastal, it's all about the food.


Creative and delicious, the food at Coastal is unlike anything else in the city. Where else can you find the Durty Bird, a buffalo chicken, bacon and guac breakfast sandwich that would make the Colonial himself gasp in disbelief. Or A Durtier South (pictured above) consisting of three eggs, BBQ brisket, red eye beans, cheesy fried grits, and crispy spicy onions. A take on my most beloved Coastal dish, the Durty South, this had me written all over it. Welcome to the party, it's in my mouth. Brent's Les Oeufs Printemps, two poached eggs with asparagus, onions, new potatoes, sprout salad, mornay sauce, and baguette was equally as satisfying. But, the best part, the Coastal's chimichuri steak heuvos totally blew the mind of our bestie in town from Montreal. Nothin' but empty plates going back to that kitchen.

With inventive takes on waffles, scrambles, and other mind blowing dishes rounding out the seasonal menu, there is literally is something for everyone. And don't even get me started on the lunch menu. So, the next time you imbibe a little too much and are looking for the cure, forgo the greezy bacon n' eggs, get in that line and put your belly in the hands of Chef Mark Giffin.

Damn, now I'm hungry.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

put an egg on it: spinach, bacon, mushroom toast with poached eggs

farm fresh (thank you Noggins)
If you haven't guessed it from my twitter or instagram feed, my new addiction lately is to Put An Egg On It. And what is 'it' exactly? Well, anything really. Apparently there's even an insert in the new Food Network Magazine with the top 50 recipes to #putaneggonit. I can't wait to get my hands on that.

The addiction started months ago when I was exploring Korean cuisine where eggs adorn many a dish. One favourite is the dolsot (stone) bibimbap where a raw egg yolk is placed ever so gently on top of the rice filled piping hot stone bowl. One stir with the chopsticks and bam. Korean fried rice bowl. That then led to putting an egg on any old fried rice which then fuelled the way to putting the damn things on everything.  Eggs, the gateway drug to more eggs.

The funny thing is I used to not really like eggs, relegating them solely to the greasy breakfasts of hangovers. And even then I'd usually only make it through one. But here I am today, addicted. Now all I can think about is what I can put an egg on. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Yesterday, feeling inspired by two new blogging friends Jenny Jack (coolest name ever by the way) of The Brunette Baker and Kelly Brisson of The Gouda Life (who is as, if not more, addicted), I whipped up a lunch with mushrooms, bacon, garlic, and onions on toast followed by a poached egg, local organic sprouts, and some award winning Avonlea clothbound cheddar from PEI.  Needless to say, my lunch rocked. But today, with Brent home and hungry for breakfast, he was feeling rather jealous of my epic egg topped lunch. What was I to do? You guessed it. Put An Egg On It.

Spinach, Bacon, Mushroom Toast with Poached Eggs

Serves two: one hungry fella and one lil' lady

4 slices thick cut bacon, the real stuff not that processed junk
2 shallots, diced
3 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons white wine
2 cups chopped spinach
4 slices bread, we used a gorgeous roasted garlic bread
shaved cheese of choice, something aged and bitey (We used Grizzly Gouda, another award winner but that's another post entirely)

3 eggs

Bring a shallow pot of water to a boil. Add a bunch of salt. This was a trick I recently picked up from another chef. The salt will allow the eggs to float rather than stick to the bottom of the pot. I find it works so well there's no need for vinegar. When it reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat until bubbles are gently hitting the surface. Prep the eggs by cracking them into ramekins.

Heat a pan over medium heat. No need for oil since that bacon grease will lube everything up nicely. Add bacon and cook til  browned yet not crispy. Add the shallots and mushrooms, sautéing until the mushrooms are brown and shallots translucent. Add the garlic and sauté about 2 minutes. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan. Cook until the liquid evaporates. Add the spinach, cooking only long enough to wilt.

Now get those eggs poaching by releasing the egg as close to the surface of the water as possible. Thus, the ramekin. Soft yolks will take about 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread.

To assemble: toast then spinach, bacon, mushroom mixture then eggs. Top with shaved cheese, pea shoots if ya got 'em (these were some lovely local organic ones from TapRoot Farm), and some fresh cracked black pepper.

See what I mean? Oh, now you can't stop thinking about eggs? You're welcome.