Stuck in a Rut Steak/Pork Chops with Chimichurri

I am currently in a funk that I just can’t seem get out of. I’ve reverted back to ‘meat starch veg’ type plates that are uninspired and quick…as my time in the kitchen has become a ‘need’ and not a ‘want’. Not so great for a food blogger, hey? What do I need to do to get inspired? Does this happen to everyone?

I had some lovely tenderloin steaks in the fridge on Friday; which is a good habit to get into…start the weekend with steaks in the fridge and you’ll have a ready made meal in no time. Well, that’s almost true except for the fact that I salt my steaks and let them come to temperature before I even allow hubby to fire up the barbeque. Unfortunately he and I aren’t on the same wavelength and he has an annoying habit of entering the kitchen every ten minutes to ask if the steaks are ready yet. It’s irritating as hell because as we all (except him) know you can’t hurry a great steak. I’ll admit that the salting and resting maybe should have started earlier than six and I guess he was starving so that might have had something to do with his persistence. In order to make up for the lateness of the hour he tried to speed up the arrival of food in his belly by half cooking the steaks. Nope, I don’t mean med-rare….I mean this cow was still mooing. So frustrating. I ate my steak in seething silence.steak1

At least had some foresight to whip up some chimichurri to go on those and make them at least palatable. We began with a lettuce and bits salad, then had the steak/chimichurri with skewers of grilled haloumi and cherry tomatoes. Then we sat around for the rest of the night patting our bellies.steak

Enter Karma…

Come Monday night I still had half of the chimichurri left so I decided to pick up some pork chops and see how those went with the chimichurri. Hubby was busy being ‘taxi dad’ so it fell to me to make dinner and do the barbequing. I figured I had it all under control…then I turned on Top Chef Canada. After the grill was heated up nicely I threw the chops on then settled on the couch while they scorched. Yup, I thought I would have just enough searing time in between commercial breaks, but it was not to be. I got out there and there were some pretty intense flames and slightly (!) charred pork. I don’t know if I sub consciously meant to do it to avenge the undercooking of the beef the previous night or if this just happened. At any rate, be forewarned…chimichurri does not mask burned pork taste. I’m going to have to take extra special care with dinner tonight to make it up to my poor children. Or maybe we’ll go meatless.

 

Chimichurri (remember: good on raw steak…not so good on charred pork chops)

1 cup fesh Italian parsley

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp pepper flakes

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Throw it all in the food processor and buzz it until it’s a sauce.chimichurri

Food Lovers Urban Market

Events that give us a sense of community are what I like most about Calgary.  Not the fancy restaurants or the rock star chefs (though we seem to have those in spades). People helping people…that’s what it’s all about.  I make sure to visit one of the city’s farmer’s markets at least once a week and try to buy local when I can. It’s a tough city to create a successful business niche in and if I (and you) can support local small business instead of corporate giants…everybody wins.

Before attending the Food Lovers Urban Market I had a discussion with my husband. We were both interested as to how successful the event would be and our doubts came  mostly from the fact that you can get most of the products at various Farmer’s Markets around the city without having to pay an entrance fee. To be honest, if I hadn’t been invited to the event I would have left it at that. Upon arrival at venue 1008 my views had entirely changed. What I saw was a community of people working together towards a common goal and having fun at the same time. There was a DJ setting the mood with upbeat but not over extended music, some amazing art by local and global artist in residence Allan Dagnall, and some really delicious aromas in the air. I was happy to arrive early and was able to chat one on one with many of the vendors. All of them were excited about the inaugural Food Lovers Urban Market, and all of them were very passionate about their products.

Since I live in the deep south of Calgary, I am very familiar with Gord and his hard working staff at Soffritto, located in Canyon Meadows (and the Calgary Farmer’s Market). I spotted Heather right away and wandered over to chat. In addition to selling the various flavoured and non flavoured olive oils and vinegars, she had fresh pasta and a delicious double smoked bacon Carbonara pasta on offer. I was very happy to hear that the fresh and prepared food offerings at Soffritto are equally as popular as their oils and vinegars. Heather is a superb cook and if you haven’t been over to Soffritto at lunch for their meatball or brisket subs you are definitely missing out!

UM

Heather from Soffritto and the boys from Olsen’s High Country Bison

Next I had a great chat with Lindsay from Big Mountain Coffee Roasters. They are a local company that roasts 100% organic beans from around the world into some very delicious coffee. While I was making the decision on which of the three espresso roasts to buy Lindsay made me an Americano (my first!) and we chatted about her super awesome Captain Kirk tattoo and of course the upcoming Comic and Entertainment Expo. I couldn’t wait to rip into my Espresso π this morning!

As I scanned the venue I found a couple of other familiar faces, Keith and Sammy from Fifth Element Truffles. Keith was busy all night running around and making sure the event went off without a hitch and Sammy did an awesome job of manning the booth all by herself. I had a chance to try their delicious Mushroom and lentil salad with Miner’s lettuce and some shaved Summer Italian truffle on top. I felt like I was back in the forest…020

Speaking of back in the forest, I had a really great and interesting chat with Mathieu Paré who runs Wild Chef Culinary Adventures. I’ve always been interested in foraging…but alas grew up a farmer’s daughter so I’ve never been exposed to foraging other than the odd mushroom incident…Anyway, they had some lovely foraged and preserved products from Gourmet Sauvage . I tried their ‘Turducken Rillette’ with pickled spruce tips and elderberry jelly and the lovely little PEI (Malpeque?) oysters with a mignonette of cantaloupe, preserved cattail hearts and milk weed pods. Who knew you could eat a cattail?UM1

Whew! I really got around last night….I had a tasty cheese plate which included a really interesting aged Goat Chevre from Say Cheese Fromagerie (at the Crossroads Market). This is the cheese market I take my father in law to when he is in town…he just can’t help himself and we reap the benefits. The last time we were there we ended up with a wedge of the world’s best cheese, the Lancaster aged loaf from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Ontario.

What goes best with cheese and beer? Maybe olives? I had the chance to speak with Spencer Barber, one of the owners of Nefiss Lezizz a ‘local’ company with a small family olive farm in Turkey. I’m not much of an olive person but I love cooking with olive oil and theirs is one of the best there is. I bought one of their dried apricot packages to bring home and the family pretty much ate the whole thing right away.

UM3Mustafa & Spencer of Nefiss Lezizz

With all that food, I’m glad there was plenty of opportunity for refreshment as well. The event had a full bar as well as booths with samples. I didn’t try the wines at 5 vines booth but I did have a sample of IPA from the Tool Shed Brewery booth. It’s great beer and I’m looking forward to finding it at a pub near me.

The Food Lovers Urban Market had something for everyone, including those with a sweet tooth. I was content with my dried apricots but there was also Gelato and sweet treats from the Purple Pastry Chef as well as Sugar Creek Kettle Corn.

Last but not least I visited the Eats of Asia booth for some hand pulled Dan Dan noodles. John Leung (from Masterchef Canada) is currently apprenticing with Jay del Corro (The Aimless Cook) and he’s kept quite busy with the noodle pulling and bao making lately! The pork on the dish was super delicious and had bags of flavour.dandanThe Food Lovers Urban Market was a ‘Gold Medal’ event (as tweeted by organizer, Keith Goodale). These types of events don’t organize themselves. Keith, along with Johanna Lane (owner/operator of Calgary Ghost Tours) had the dream and the drive to get it done…and I’m glad they did. With the proceeds from Venue 1008 going entirely to Servants Anonymous, a charity helping women and children, the evening was a win-win. The rise of the Urban Market in Calgary did what it set out to do:  Emphasize community spirit and pride as well as highlighting the hard work of small businesses.

 

 

 

 

In My Springtime April Kitchen

I can’t believe it is that time of the month again…time for a sneaky peak into kitchens around the world hosted by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial all the way from Sydney Australia. I like the misalignment of seasons between the Southern and Northern Hemispheres because that means I can get a gardening or barbeque fix from someone down under while I soothe their heat ridden days with recipes that promise the return of cooler times. Right about now we’re even temperatures I reckon, depending on where you’re living in the Great Southern Land because it’s finally Spring here in Calgary! Today is supposed to reach near 20 C which is nearly a miracle after the brutal winter we’ve had. The snow isn’t gone yet though, nearly 1/5 of my yard is still covered!

I’ve had a pretty busy month. At the end of March, beginning of April I decided to enter the Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge by creating several original recipes featuring lentils. The last day to enter recipes was yesterday so now the wait begins. I am not really thinking I will win because there were so many outstanding and delicious looking recipes entered. I already consider my family winners because we discovered that we really like lentils in the process!

crust3Feta, Pea, and Dill Quiche with a Lentil and Sweet Potato Faux Pastrypudding8Sticky Toffee Pudding with Lentils and Medjool DatesinsideShrimp Turmeric and Beluga Lentil Dumplings049Warm Lentil and White Bean Salad with Bacon and Roasted Grape Tomatoes

I visited a new ‘green’ grocery store nearby called Mrs. Green’s and found Stirling Butter which I have been really looking forward to baking with.009I finally assembled all the bitters in my house to one location, forcing myself to admit I have a bit of a problem. Does anyone have any food recipes featuring bitters they would like to share with me?012And finally, a picture of my daughter creating the pattern for her Calgary Comic Expo costume out of newspaper. We used an old vest to roughly define the pieces then added on as we imagined the vest from Hiccup (the Viking boy from How to Train Your Dragon) to be. Next we cut out the pieces from fun fur. I don’t know why they call it that…it wasn’t fun at all! Next weekend, we sew them together (hopefully).juliaMaybe next month she’ll let me post a photo of her in the full costume. That’s all folks, not much else going on in my kitchen at the moment. See you in May!



Blink Restaurant

Oh goodness! I guess I got super busy and this Big Taste post slipped through the cracks. I could have left the post half done with just photos to show the delicious meal I enjoyed at the Blink Restaurant Event hosted by John Gilchrist…but I enjoyed my first visit to Blink so much that I will carry on and publish this. Better late than never, I hope.

I was greeted and shown to my seat upon arrival but since I was early and had been sitting on the train for a fair bit I decided to stand for a while. I had a chance to check out the bar, the washroom, and the pass area where John Gilchrist was going over the finer points of the menu with executive chef Chris Dewling. The restaurant has a modern look that is also very cozy and calming. It also still retains a bit of a ‘historic vibe’ as the building was originally built as a saddlery; not in itself very interesting but when John Gilchrist told us the previous restaurants has had a few ‘equine’ visitors it all made perfect sense.

I had a seat with a few of Calgary’s well known ‘foodies’, including John himself and Maggie Schofield (executive director at Downtown Calgary and creator of Big Taste Calgary) as well as Shannon McNeney, her associate also from Downtown Calgary. It must have been meant to be because I had sat across from Maggie at the Muse event as well but we didn’t get much of a chance to chat because we were sitting at the large central table and much to far away to hold a conversation without shouting. We were able to speak more freely at Blink and Maggie recommended the new cookbook ‘Seasons at SAIT’ recently published by the chefs at SAIT Culinary Campus. As usual I couldn’t resist a cookbook recommendation so I found my way to SAIT and bought myself a copy to read on the train ride back home.

To start we were given the choice between Field Mushroom soup or Salt Baked Poplar Bluff Golden and Chioggia Beet Salad with shaved fennel, black olive vinaigrette, lemon oil, and shaved pecorino. I was pretty torn, but I am also a sucker for beets so I eventually chose the salad. There were some people at our table that chose the soup and it smelled pretty amazing. saladFor our mains we had a choice between three dishes; a Ricotta Gnocchi (which I am apt to call gnudi) with sage, roasted hazelnuts, and Parmesan; a Grilled Beef Sirloin with confit rutabaga, parsnip frites, and finally, Roast Fillet of Arctic Char with organic one year aged carnaroli risotto, Jerusalem Artichoke and Balsamic Cream. I was tempted to get the Gnocchi but was a bit concerned it could end up being very heavy and not what I needed for lunch. I was encouraged to chose the Arctic Char as Maggie claimed that Blink makes a terrific risotto…actually we encouraged each other because she mentioned she had been eating a lot of fish and I originally pointed out the risotto. Anyway we were both very happy with our choice.  As it turned out absolutely no one at the event ordered the gnocchi at all so the chef made up several ‘to share’ plates for the event goers to try. I thought that was really nice of him and I may have had a couple of spoonfuls of the very light (but rich) dish. It turns out that Blink also does both risotto and gnocchi really well. Blink makes the extra effort to make their risotto the best it can be by aging the carnaroli rice for a year. The rice takes on a more mature flavour and an improved texture.arcticcharI don’t know how I lived in Australia for three years and avoided Sticky Date Pudding.  I guess it was something I never really understood or maybe just filed away in my brain with ‘Christmas Cake’ or other such British influenced desserts that reek of liquor, odd spices, and dried fruit best eaten fresh….well believe it or not I chose the Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce over the Valrhona chocolate terrine to finish my lunch at Blink. No regrets! Wow, this cake was a stunner with a nice light texture and warming spices but what really made the dish was the butterscotch sauce. I don’t think there’s ever anyway to make this dish look sophisticated…those of us who know that the charm of a sticky toffee pudding is not in it’s appearance  but in the way that this dish radiates comfort. This is the dish that inspired my Sticky Toffee Lentil Puddings with Medjool Dates.stickydateFor my first time at Blink I think I was pretty well taken care of. The dishes and flavours were all top notch as were the wine pairings, all Naramata Bench wines from Laughing Stock Vineyards. I’m glad I took the train home…

Blink Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Blink Restaurant

111 8TH AVE SW CALGARY AB
(403) 263-5330

Warm Lentil and White Bean Salad with Bacon and Roasted Grape Tomatoes

One more kick at the cat…er Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge.043

I realized I had not entered a salad as of yet and there were plenty of left overs in my fridge that were just begging to be made into this Warm Lentil and White Bean Salad with Bacon and Roasted Grape Tomatoes. For instance, last weeks Calgary Farmer’s Market bag of grape tomatoes, several kinds of ‘please use me!’ herbs, leftover Beluga lentils from my Shrimp Dumplings, and leftover White beans from a Bean, Chorizo and Kale dish I did earlier in the week.

A quick aside about lentils…I spent an hour and a half dismantling the dishwasher and scrubbing it clean to find several appropriately shaped Beluga lentils were blocking the sprayers.

I may or may not have sworn a bit, then proceeded to lecture everyone on the benefits of having a dishwasher and not taking advantage of it. Yes, I went there.

Warm Lentil and White Bean Salad with Bacon and Roasted Grape Tomatoes

The Tomatoes

Two handfuls grape or mini roma tomatoes sliced lengthwise in half

Several sprigs of fresh thyme

salt, pepper, and olive oil

Lay sliced tomatoes cut side up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle thyme sprigs, salt, and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over all and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

tomatoes2Spot the Imposter! 

The Onions

1/2 Red Onion sliced into thin slivers

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

sea salt

Add sliced onion to a bowl and drizzle vinegar over. Add salt and let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad ingredientsonions

Other Stuff

4 European style Bacon rashers cut into matchsticks or however you fancy….and fried then drained on a paper towel.bacon

more salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, and olive oil

1/2 cup picked flat leaf parsley leaves AND stems. Finely chop the stems up and add to a medium bowl. Reserve leaves.

1 1/2 cups pre cooked Beluga Lentils

1 1/2 cups pre cooked White Beans

Final Assembly

When the tomatoes are done take them out of the oven and rest them on the counter. Using the tiny bit of bacon oil from frying the bacon, heat up the pan again and add the onions and red wine vinegar. Season and cook only until they start to soften. Add the lentils and beans, parsley stems, and bacon. warmingupSauté until they are all warmed through, add a couple more dashes of red wine vinegar and olive oil, then plate your salad. Add the tomatoes and parsley, then season. Enjoy!

A slight bit of thought went into this salad. I still wanted something warm and comforting but also a bit fresh and full of zip. I absolutely love the flavours of a warm German Potato Salad and was aiming to replicate a reasonable facsimile of it using the lentils and beans. It worked out so well I must admit I am eating a bowlful of it as I am writing this post.049

*no cats were harmed during the making of this dish*

 

 

 

Masterchef Canada Event at Muse Restaurant featuring Tammara Behl

Masterchef Canada, where Canadian home cooks come to shine…and believe me, they do shine! Calgary school teacher, Tammara Behl, is definitely one of the show’s shining stars at the moment. Besides making various appearances around Calgary (especially on Monday nights for MCC viewing parties) she recently teamed up with Chef Pedhirney of Muse Restaurant to create an influenced tasting menu and viewing event.

I’m glad Hubby and I arrived early and didn’t have to scout for two seats together like so many other couples did. We also had a great view of the big screen and got to meet some really friendly ladies who know Tammara through her Pampered Chef ventures. I don’t think Hubby minded being the only male at the table at all…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I love attending foodie events! No one cares if you take several photos of your food (and sometimes theirs depending on the plating!) on various settings and with additional light sources. So when I took out my camera to photograph the various welcome bites I wasn’t in the least surprised that my new friend Chris also began taking photos.

MCAFennel and apple soup with a tiny matzo ball

MCA!Puffed Barley with creme fraiche and watercress purée  & Puffed Samosa with Tamarind Chutney

Arriving early does have other advantages…Hubby and I both took advantage of Muse’s cocktail menu with myself ordering a Chunnel (Gin, St. Germaine, and Pineapple Juice) and Hubby a French 75 (Gin, Cointreau, Champagne). It was funny because it came in a champagne flute so the server just assumed it was Chris’s based on the fact she was a women. I waited until the server was gone to move it for him, just to preserve his manhood!

With everyone seated and well watered our first course was served. I have to say that the minute I read this menu, I knew we had to attend the event. Everything sounded so well thought out that I knew the dinner was going to be amazing. The asparagus salad with pecorino, truffled mushroom purée, lemon vinaigrette, and egg yolk delivered so much flavour. The tender spring asparagus was tied in little parcels set a top the pavée of mushroom purée. This dish was packed with umami and was an excellent way to start the dinner. MCA2Since it is Spring, Halibut has been making an appearance on many restaurant menus. So far we haven’t had any halibut this year but I’m glad we chose Muse as the place to have our first 2014 halibut experience. Though our pieces were of various thicknesses, both Hubby and I were very impressed with how perfectly they both were cooked. 025The spotted prawn bisque was a perfect way to serve the fish and bean combination. I didn’t really taste much of the chorizo; but I enjoyed the prawns, the ‘miner’s lettuce’, and braised romaine in this dish. I loved the fresh and slightly bitter taste of the miner’s lettuce. I found this dish to be very thoughtfully prepared and seasoned.MCA3I had a difficult time warming up to the next course. Wagyu beef sounded great to me, though the piece that I received was quite thick and quite under cooked. I know that the kitchen aims to achieve a rare/medium rare on these flat irons, but mine was still cold in the middle and very difficult to cut and chew. Hubby was kind enough to play swapsies with me and his was cooked perfectly, very tender and tasty. As for all the other elements on the plate, they were amazing! I loved the well seasoned kale and the Oxtail and Maitake mushroom ragout was stellar. I could have had a whole bowl of that on it’s own.

Our plates were being cleared with about ten minutes to spare before it was Masterchef Canada showtime. We ordered cappuccinos, then waited in anticipation for our dessert which promised a special Chef Tammara component…the Nanaimo bar perogies from MCC episode 9. Dessert came just as we were about set to watch the opening moments of the show…perfect timing!

MCC4Nanaimo bar Perogies with Muse’s White Chocolate Panna Cotta and Egg Nog Ice Cream

We  had a lot of fun watching the eleventh episode with the competitors first creating a lobster themed dish in thirty minutes. It was a tough challenge, but Tammara managed a win with her perfectly butter poached lobster on top of a Thai mango slaw. When I saw it, I was really hoping for a ‘surprise’ lobster themed second ‘dessert’ but it was not meant to be.044The episode ended with Chef Tammara surviving to fight another week on Masterchef Canada. We bid farewell to our new friends and waddled down the street to catch the next train home.

Muse Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Muse Restaurant
107 10A Street Northwest
Calgary, AB

Shrimp Lentil and Turmeric Dumplings

After my dumpling lesson last weekend with Foodisms of The Office Broccoli I felt like I could stuff anything into those little skins and get away with it. As I was driving home I was hatching a plan to create an ‘appetizer’ entry for the Canadian Lentil Revelations Challenge using Beluga lentils and creating some other colours and flavours with cilantro and turmeric. I can’t believe how super healthy these are for you…the low GI, high fibre/protein combo of lentils and shrimp with the anti oxidant/anti inflammatory benefits of turmeric make me feel like I have goodness flowing through my veins. Heath benefits aside, this is actually one appetizer that also tastes amazing and really…how many foods taste good and are actually healthy for you?insideI began by cooking 125 grams of lentils in 2 cups of water for about 25 minutes. When they were just soft I rinsed them and set them aside to cool while I got the rest of the ingredients for the filling ready.

ingredientsI added the shrimp last so that it would stay relatively cool for the whole time I was making the dumplings. I made sure to have my dumpling making station organized and ready so that I could start making dumplings as soon as the filling was mixed.mixture1Filling dumplings is pretty mindless work. It helps to have a friend to chat with or to have the radio on so that you can get the job done as soon as possible. If you keep your mind busy, the task will be done in no time at all.

dumplingsAfter I had made a half cooking tray of dumplings I set a large pot of water to boil and lined a steamer basket with cabbage leaves.

steamed3The half tray of dumplings allowed me to steam one batch of dumplings, then pan fry the rest. In both versions you can tell they are done by the way the skins change and become slightly translucent when they are ready.  steamed2I thought that the taste of the dumplings was slightly better in the fried version.fried3To fry the dumplings in the pan, make sure each dumpling has a thin film of oil on it’s bottom and heat on med-low heat until the bottoms become crispy brown. Add water by the tablespoon (maybe about 4 tbsp) and put the lid on so they steam a bit. Add water sporadically about 2-3 times until the dumpling wrappers change from dull to glossy. This maybe takes about ten minutes.fried2

Shrimp Lentil and Turmeric Dumplings

1 package of shrimp; peeled and deveined then roughly chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup chopped spring onions

pinky sized knob fresh turmeric very finely diced

1/2 cup cooked beluga lentils

splash Chinese cooking wine

splash soy sauce

splash fish sauce

egg yolk

pepper

rice flour for thickening mixture. Add by tbsp until you think the mixture will hold nicely.

dumpling skins

 

 

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