I didn’t try my first mango until I was 32. I know I probably led a sheltered life but then have you ever tried to find a decent mango in Canada? It is possible but you sure have to know what you are looking for and I obviously didn’t.
Well. Until that year I had never been out of Canada unless you count the quick day trip to Minot, ND when I was a teenager. Back before you needed a passport to cross the border. Those were the days.
The year I was 32 was a big year for our little family. That was the year of our first family vacation to an all inclusive on the West coast of Costa Rica (but not during mango season). Then Hubby took a business trip to Perth, AU to make some connections as we were planning on moving the family there. Later in January, just before I turned 33, I accompanied him on a trip to Egypt. We mostly visited Alexandria but we did have a few days in Cairo.I really wish I was food blogging back then because I could have written down the food memories and experiences as they were fresh in my mind. I ended up doing some private touring with a female tour guide while Hubby was working and it was marvelous! We would tour for a bit, then break for lunch. One day we went to the Fish Market, one of the best restaurants in Alexandria. We picked out our fresh fish and specified how it was to be cooked then were given small plates to share as we waited. In addition to the pita & hummous, we had deep fried whitebait and I ordered my very first mango drink. I was expecting some sort of smoothie, but instead was given what was basically a glass of mango purée. It was difficult to drink and quite stringy but it was oh so refreshing…I was instantly hooked. From then on I would order mango drink only! When we arrived back in Canada, the only mangoes available were rock hard, odourless, Mexican mangoes. Or, as I like to call them, ‘Canadian Mangoes’. I tried the flash frozen mangoes but found they were a bit chalky in texture so then I just gave up.
Then, in 2008 we moved to Perth, Australia. Let me tell you everything tastes better there…it’s all grown locally and if it isn’t, it only has to travel a couple hundred of kilometres instead of across whole continents. Gosh, even the carrots taste better. But back to the mangoes…Australia has a really lengthy mango season stretching from late September to April and grows at least nine types of mangoes. It is mango lovers utopia and there were many days where I ate at least one per day. They even have the large R2E2 mango which can be the size of a small cantaloupe (or rockmelon if you are an Aussie).
Eating a juicy, ripe sweet and sour mango with it’s juices dripping down my arms makes me feel like I’m eating liquid sunshine. It just plain reminds me of summer and warmer weather which I really need right now. So last week I broke down and bought a case of ‘Canadian’ Ataulfo mangoes (a cultivar from Mexico) and you know, they weren’t half bad! For the first couple of days we just ate them as they were, au natural but later in the week they started to get wrinkly and found their way into the fridge.
I eventually found a recipe that would use up the last four dodgy mangoes, this really amazing Mango Tart from Raspberri Cupcakes. I found the mango curd really easy to make, though I did change the crust a bit by omitting the coconut.
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.
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.
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
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!
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…
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?
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.
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.The 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.
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!
Feta, Pea, and Dill Quiche with a Lentil and Sweet Potato Faux PastrySticky Toffee Pudding with Lentils and Medjool DatesShrimp Turmeric and Beluga Lentil DumplingsWarm 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.I 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?And 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).Maybe 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!
One more kick at the cat…er Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge.
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
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.
1/2 Red Onion sliced into thin slivers
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
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
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. Sauté 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.
*no cats were harmed during the making of this dish*
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.
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. Since 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. The 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.I 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!
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.The 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.
107 10A Street Northwest
food lover, food maker, food dreamer