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.