Crispy pan-fried Basa fillets

If you’ve not yet tried Basa, you’re in for a treat. This mild-flavoured white fish is remarkable not only for its delicate taste but also the fact that you won’t find rogue bones lurking in the flesh. Insulating the fish with a creamy paste of avocado before applying the crumb crust ensures the fish won’t dry out as you cook it. I like to serve the fillets on a bed of sautéed herbed onion, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes and chopped black olives, to punch up the flavours on the plate. 

Mild-flavoured Basa fillets taste particularly delicious when wrapped in an avocado paste and dressed in breadcrumbs.

Mild-flavoured Basa fillets taste particularly delicious when wrapped in an avocado paste and dressed in breadcrumbs.

Ingredients

  • 2 Basa fillets, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 very ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) each salt, pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp (2.5 mL to 5 mL) hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) mayonnaise
  • 1 cup (250 mL) Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely chopped parsley
  • Canola oil (for frying)
  • Lemon wedges (garnish)

Method

  • Peel and mash the avocado in a bowl. Add lemon juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and mayonnaise. Stir to blend well until you have a smooth, thick sauce.
  • With the back of a spoon, spread the fish fillets with the avocado mixture.
  • Put the breadcrumbs in a broad, shallow dish and coat both sides of the fish in crumbs.
  • Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet large enough to hold the fish and give you room to flip the fillets. Heat oil on medium-high.
  • Reduce heat to medium once the oil is hot and add the coated fish to the pan.
  • Cook for 5 minutes; flip and cook for 5 minutes more.

Serves 2.

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Beet and Rhubarb Salad

Beet salads became rather ubiquitous on restaurant menus a few years ago, and there’s a good reason why: beets are delicious, nutritious, inexpensive and very pretty on the plate. I’m also a big fan of rhubarb, another bright-coloured vegetable (often mistakenly called a fruit). It’s been a great delight to find local rhubarb available in wintertime, now that it’s being grown in darkened barns in many northern hemisphere countries. The best part? This forced variety is even sweeter than what gets harvested outdoors in early spring. The combination of rhubarb and beets in a salad makes for an explosion of colour as well as a balanced, sweet-tart flavour. To make this a complete meal, you could serve the beet and rhubarb salad over cooked quinoa or couscous.

This drop-dead gorgeous salad tastes as good as it looks, thanks to zingy rhubarb, sweet roasted beets with a tangy balsamic dressing and creamy goat cheese.

This drop-dead gorgeous salad tastes as good as it looks, thanks to zingy rhubarb, sweet roasted beets with a tangy balsamic dressing and creamy goat cheese.

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs (700 g) beets (a mix of red, golden, candy cane is really pretty)
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 lb (300 g) rhubarb, washed and cut in 1 inch / 2.5cm pieces
  • 4 tsp (20 mL) white sugar
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) Balsamic
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp (.65 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (100g) goat cheese or feta, crumbled (omit for vegan version)
Winter or forced rhubarb  is typically sweeter than what's grown outdoors. You can tell the difference thanks to the pale leaves and darker stems.

Winter or forced rhubarb is typically sweeter than what’s grown outdoors. You can tell the difference thanks to the pale leaves and darker stems.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Scrub beets and trim ends. Leave small beets (less than 2 inches / 5 cm in diameter) whole; cut larger beets into halves or quarters to approximate that size. Lay the beets in a baking pan and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cover pan with a tight lid or foil.
A combination of golden, candy cane and red beets makes this salad even prettier.

A combination of golden, candy cane and red beets makes this salad even prettier.

  • Roast beets for 40 – 50 minutes, until the largest pieces are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
  • While beets are cooking, combine rhubarb and sugar in a bowl, then transfer the mixture to a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake alongside the beets for 8 – 10 minutes, until tender-crisp (think al dente pasta). Set aside to cool.
  • While rhubarb and beets are cooking, add the cider vinegar, balsamic, maple syrup, remaining olive oil, cinnamon and shallots to a jar with a tight lid. Cover and shake to combine well.
  • When beets are cooked, let them cool for a few moments then then peel and cut into 3/4 inch (2 cm) cubes.
  • To assemble, put the cooked beets in a serving bowl and drizzle the dressing over them, stirring gently to coat the beets. Taste and add salt and/or pepper to your liking.
  • Just before serving, add the rhubarb and any accumulated juices plus salt and pepper to taste to the beets. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley.

Serves 4.

Posted in Fruits and vegetables, Salads, vegan, Vegetables, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chocolate Macaroon Nests

This no-bake, fibre-rich, gluten-free confection almost qualifies as a healthy treat. I loved making macaroons (not to be confused with pillowy French macarons) as a little kid, particularly because I could execute this recipe independently, since the oven wasn’t needed. Aside from their chewy, chocolatey flavour, one of the things I love best about macaroons (sometimes called haystack cookies) is that they take just five minutes to make. For a vegan version, you can use margarine and almond milk. For a festive touch, plant a few mini eggs or jellybeans in the middle of each macaroon and you’ll have a centre-piece worthy dessert.

Chocolate Macaroon Nests take just five minutes to make and can be decorated with your favourite Easter candy for a centrepiece-worthy dessert.

Chocolate Macaroon Nests take just five minutes to make and can be decorated with your favourite Easter candy for a centrepiece-worthy dessert.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (60 mL) butter
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (60 mL) milk
  • 5 teaspoons (25 mL) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) unsweetened coconut *
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) quick-cooking (not instant) rolled oats
  • 36 Mini-Eggs or Eggies (can use jellybeans too)

* if you MUST make an adaptation for non-coconut lovers, ¼ cup crumbled shredded wheat works well

Method

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.
  • Combine sugar and cocoa powder; add to butter along with milk.
  • Cook, stirring, until mixture comes to a rolling boil then continue to stir as it cooks for one full minute.
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla, stirring to incorporate.
  • Add coconut and oats; stir well.
  • Using two spoons, drop the batter in twelve equal portions (just over a tablespoon each) onto the baking sheet, trying to keep them as round as possible.
  • Nestle eggs or jellybeans into the centre of the nests.
  • Though they’re ready to eat immediately, I like to refrigerate these briefly to firm up a little (approximately 30 minutes).

Makes 12 cookie nests.

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Make-ahead Scallops au Gratin

I’ve always loved this dish, also known as Coquilles St. Jacques. For years, it was my ‘have to impress these people’ meal. These days, I prefer this version which can be made the day before a party. I also like that it’s easy to make a gluten-free variation, if needed. Bay Scallops are probably my favourite seafood, not only because they are smaller, delicate and sweet but also because they are so versatile and easy to prepare. While you may have seen old-school pictures of this dish served in large scallop shells, I think shallow, oven-safe ceramic gratin dishes are far more practical. I like to serve this dish with a green salad, crusty bread and chilled Sauvignon Blanc.

Tender, flavourful bay scallops are particularly delicious smothered in a creamy sauce and topped with cheese and breadcrumbs. You can prepare this dish up to a day before serving!

Tender, flavourful bay scallops are particularly delicious smothered in a creamy sauce and topped with cheese and breadcrumbs. You can prepare this dish up to a day before serving!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds (675 g) bay scallops, or quartered sea scallops, thawed if frozen
  • 5 tablespoons (75 mL) butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup (180 mL) heavy (35%) cream
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried thyme
  • pinch cayenne
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2/3 cup (180mL) diced shallots
  • 12 medium-sized mushroom caps, halved and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) vermouth or white wine
  • 1 cup (250 mL) Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons (60 mL) minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 ounces (110 g) Emmental or Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

Method

  • Pat scallops dry with a paper towel and refrigerate until needed.
  • Set a saucepan over medium heat, and melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in it. Add the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  • Slowly add the chicken stock, whisking constantly, to create a smooth, thick sauce. Add the cream, thyme and cayenne. Heat the sauce, whisking often, until it is just about boiling then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  • Put 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying or sauté pan. Place over medium heat. Melt butter then add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one minute longer. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for about 6 – 7 minutes until mushrooms are beginning to turn brown.
  • Add the vermouth, brandy or Cognac to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushroom mixture to the cream sauce; taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Put in the fridge to cool; stirring occasionally, for 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Combine bread crumbs, parsley and grated cheese in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil; stir.
  • Use remaining butter to grease 4 medium gratin dishes (approximately 1.5 cups / 375 mL each). Divide the scallops among the dishes; top with the cream sauce, dividing evenly. Finish each dish with bread crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet, cover dishes with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  • Just before serving time, preheat oven to 400F. Remove plastic wrap from gratin dishes and place in hot oven for 18 – 22 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned and bubbling.

Serves 4.

Scallops au Gratin are easy to assemble and can be quickly baked just before serving time.

Scallops au Gratin are easy to assemble and can be quickly baked just before serving time.

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Share Freehouse – a Sneak Peek

Opening a new restaurant these days is not for the faint of heart. But Thomas McVeigh, the proprietor of Ottawa’s newest eatery, Share Freehouse, is not relying on bravery; instead, he’s leveraging decades of experience in the hospitality industry. As well, he’s assembled a solid team and is putting into play a business plan that he attests he first developed when he was twelve years old.

327 Somerset Street West is now home to Share Freehouse.

327 Somerset Street West is now home to Share Freehouse.

Share is the newest occupant of a mid-1800s brick house on Somerset Street that has been home to several former restaurants. The building has never looked as charming as it does now, its interior done up in what Thom jokingly calls a ‘frontier bordello’ style. Concrete, barnboard, velvet and attractive accessories provide a pleasing backdrop that allows the food and service to take centre stage.

Share Thom and Danny wm

Thom McVeigh and Danny Mongeon put in weeks of almost around-the-clock work to get Share Freehouse refreshed and ready for its March 27 opening.

At the helm in the kitchen is Danny Mongeon, an impressive young chef who has developed a loyal following thanks to his previous work at Brut Cantina Sociale, Hooch Bourbon House and the FLUX series of back-to-the-land fundraising dinners. At Share, Danny intends to showcase local farmers through a menu that promotes sustainability, stewardship and supporting community. Open for weekday lunches as well as dinner service seven days a week, Share also offers a late-night menu and is looking forward to adding family-style suppers on Sundays as well as opening a patio once Ottawa’s relentless winter finally recedes.

Danny's "Ancient Grains" is a beautiful and wholly satisfying plate - nutritious and packed with flavour thanks to beets, apples, pickled shallots and sorrel.

Chef Danny’s “Ancient Grains” is a beautiful and wholly satisfying plate – nutritious and offering plenty of tastes and textures thanks to beets, apples, pickled shallots and sorrel.

“I’ve tried to craft a menu that offers something for everyone,” says Danny. “While I am committed to the ‘whole animal’ approach, at Share, we’ll place equal importance on the flavours and composition that can make vegetarian dishes so appealing.” Given that Thom himself is a vegetarian, it’s a safe bet that the meatless options will not be an afterthought.

The Bison Tartare is packed with flavour and perfect for sharing. I love the Korean-style presentation, with lettuce leaves to serves as wraps for the nicely-seasoned chopped, lean meat, studded with fermented chilies and topped with crispy shallots, an herb salad and shaved cured egg yolk.

The Bison Tartare is packed with flavour and perfect for sharing. I love the Korean-style presentation, with lettuce leaves to serve as wraps for the nicely-seasoned chopped, lean meat, studded with fermented chilies and topped with crispy shallots, an herb salad and shaved cured egg yolk.

Thom confirms that the ‘something for everyone’ approach applies to the service as well. “We want to be known as a spot that is friendly yet professional, offering great food in an unpretentious environment,” he says. Thom knows a thing or three about maintaining an excellent resto vibe, having served for five years as the General Manager of Absinthe Café.  Thom’s wife Maeve is his partner on his newest project.

share bar wm

I tasted two dishes just hours before Share opened for its first customers on March 27 and both were crammed with flavour, not to mention prettily-presented. I can’t wait to return.

Share Freehouse is at 327 Somerset Street West in Ottawa; www.sharefreehouse.ca.

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Dutch Baby with Apples and Apple Butter

If you’ve never had a Dutch Baby, you’re really missing out. A fluffy, baked pancake, usually cooked in a cast iron pan, this is what all breakfast foods wish they could be. When I spied both apples (from Hall’s Apple Market) and Apple Butter (from Barkey’s Apple Orchard) in my winter Farmers’ Feast basket from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, I knew right away this was what I wanted to make. I enjoyed it with maple syrup, though my patient, taste-testing husband was really happy to slather his portion with more apple butter. Either way, it’s a fantastic breakfast treat!

The Dutch Baby - as light, flavourful baked pancake filled with apples and apple butter - is kind of the champion of breakfast foods.

The Dutch Baby – as light, flavourful baked pancake filled with apples and apple butter – is kind of the champion of breakfast foods. It’s deceptively light yet satisfying.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Apple Butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
  • Apple Butter and/or Maple Syrup for serving

Method

  • Preheat oven to 425.  Place butter in a 9” cast iron pan. Add apple slices then put the pan in the oven to heat and partially cook the apples minutes while you are making the batter.
  • If the apple butter is extremely thick (like peanut butter thick), heat it gently and briefly in a heatproof dish in the microwave, so it softens and becomes a little thinner in consistency. Stir and set aside.
  • In medium bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer or hand whisk then add the milk, apple butter, vanilla and sugar and beat to blend thoroughly.
  • Add flour to egg mixture and beat until smooth.
  • Pour the batter into the hot, buttered, apple-filled cast iron pan and return it into the oven.
  • Reduce oven heat to 375F and bake for about 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and golden.
  • Cut into wedges and serve immediately with apple butter and/or maple syrup on the side.

 

Serves 2

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Cavena Nuda (Oat Groats) Risotto with Squash

Oat Groats, Naked Oats or Rice of the Prairies … three names for one of the newest darlings of the Canadian farming scene: Cavena Nuda.  It’s an amazing variety of hull-less (naked, get it?) developed by researchers at Agriculture Canada and now grown across the country, in places where rice could never flourish. This grain looks and cooks like rice, but has a much more impressive nutritional profile along with a chewier texture and nutty flavour. High in fibre and protein, they’re gluten-free and a good source of iron. Castor River Farms at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market is a great local source – they call it “local rice”, in fact. For this winter Farmers’ Feast dish, the squash came from Bryson Farms, the shallot from Roots Down Organic Farm and the Hillbilly Cheese, a more flavourful alternative to Parmesan, came from Canreg Dairy. Use this recipe as a starting point and add in your favourite vegetables to make it your own! The omnivores, vegetarians and vegans in your life will all thank you.

Hull-less oats, also called oat groats, Cavena Nuda, Rice of the Prairies or local rice, is a delicious and nutritious alternative grain. It is great in soups and makes delicious risotto as well!

Hull-less oats, also called oat groats, Cavena Nuda, Rice of the Prairies or local rice, is a delicious and nutritious alternative grain. It is great in soups and makes delicious risotto as well!

Ingredients

  • 1 small squash, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) cubes
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups (750 mL) vegetable stock *
  • 1 large or two small shallots, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 cups (375 mL) oat groats or Cavena Nuda
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Hillbilly or Parmesan (use a non-dairy cheese for vegan version)
  • Additional grated cheese for garnish
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

* purchased, low-sodium vegetable stock is fine, but it’s really easy to make your own! Combine 1 shallot, quartered, 1 carrot, scrubbed and chopped with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Strain and refrigerate until needed.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • In a small roasting pan, toss the cubed squash with 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 – 30 minutes, until squash is tender and edges are starting to caramelize.
  • Transfer roasted squash cubes to a bowl and set aside until ready to prepare risotto (can be made up to 8 hours ahead).
  • For risotto, heat remaining olive oil in a medium sized pot, over medium heat. Add chopped shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add Cavena Nuda and stir to coat grains well with oil; cook for 1 minute to lightly toast the Cavena.
  • Add the vegetable stock to the pot and partially cover with a lid.
  • Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cook at a simmer until oats are tender but still a bit firm (like al dente pasta) – about 45 minutes. If most of the liquid gets absorbed, add a few tablespoons of water so you can maintain some liquidity (I like to serve this dish a little on the ‘soupy’ side).
  • When Cavena is tender, add roasted squash and grated cheese to the pot; stir gently to combine well. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Serve the risotto and remaining broth in heated soup plates; garnish with chopped parsley and a little bit more cheese.

Serves 3 – 4.

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