Monday, March 30th11.4°C
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Happy Gourmand

What is it about pickles?

Does anyone remember the old Arlo Guthrie tune? You know, the one about the pickle? He comments in the lyrics on how absurd it is that he could be so successful with a song about a pickle. It makes me think of today and how the food trends have become so extreme, so exotic. Are we yearning for imaginative stuff on our plates? Is the world so serious that we look to the dinner table for a bit of something absurd just to relieve the stress? I'm going to give you a couple of examples to ponder, and maybe you can let me know your thoughts.

1.  Burgers - they're going to be responsible, or maybe full of crazy stuff. Even A & W has advertised that they are now serving antibiotic-free beef, and independent restaurants are often working with smaller suppliers in that "know where your food comes from" philosophy. Other places are going the extreme route: duck confit burger, anyone? How about a squid slider?

2.  Waffles - they're not just for breakfast anymore. Sweet waffles are popular, but the southern dish of chicken & waffles has helped inspire all kinds of rich savoury toppings. This is another trend that is not for the faint at heart however.

3.  Brinner - when you miss breakfast, you can have it for dinner! Some of this trend is centered around the concept of putting a poached egg on top of a dish, but there's something to be said for making more meals acceptable for all those wonderful Sunday brunch dishes :)

4Gyros - it's cooler when your wrap has an ethnic name, isn't it? The Greek flatbread with flavourful fillings is the new wrapped sandwich craze. Portable food is always cool in today's world. If only there was an app that would allow telepathic texting while you eat...

5.  Donuts - what else can you put in them? It's frankly scary the range of fillings available in fried pastry, and then consider the variations of stuffed food similar to a donut - like kolaches (great with plum jam but now possible with candied jalapenos and smoked beef).

6.  "I dare you" food - ever tried beef tongue? How about fresh grated horseradish? Foraged greens? Moss? It's all out there for the adventurous. Chefs love shock value too sometimes.

7.  New twists on beverages - craft beer pubs are passé; look for beer bars with odd themes (think different glassware or decor and innovative beer styles). Wine is okay, but mead is more fun. And cocktails can come with any kind of garnish now, even scented feathers!

8.  Salt cod - no really, you have to try it! Andrew Knowlton, the editor of Bon Appetit magazine, said it looks like "a last-resort snack for those beyond the wall in Game of Thrones" but treated properly it is delectable.

9.  Nitro coffee - because life just keeps getting more Fast & Furious. Seriously, why have just caffeine when you can have it injected with nitrogen and served from a tap? Apparently it has a creamy texture not unlike a pint of Guinness.

10. Restaurant names like never before - in an effort to be new and inventive, owners are picking terms like "luncheonette" and "provisions" to sound unique. Couple this with some wacky ingredient or animal name (think anise hyssop or blue oyster) and you're all set. Only trouble is everyone else is using the same kind of formula - go figure.

11. Lithuanian and South African cuisine - it sounds like someone spun a globe and said "quick, what countries have we not featured on menus recently?" But there are some interesting foods to try - a Lithuanian stuffed potato dumpling called a cepelinai sounds delicious, and I love bobotie, a sort of South African shepherd's pie.

12. Pickles - you thought I was going to leave you hanging, didn't you? Don't you agree, what with kimchi everywhere now and pickled mushrooms as garnish and pickled fruit on cheese boards... really, the recession wasn't that bad we need to preserve everything! I love a crunchy dill pickle like the next person, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

 

How trendy are you? Does any of this stuff even pique your interest, or would you rather stick to Meatless Monday, Tuna Casserole Tuesday and so on? Does your family enjoy trying new things? I'd love to hear your comments.

I'll be posting links to some of the recipes from this week's list on my Happy Gourmand blog for those wanting to try something new, and I have the Arlo Guthrie Pickle tune on my Facebook page if you're feeling nostalgic. Whatever food you're enjoying this week, Bon Appetit!



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Spring inspirations

Now that the seasons are changing I seem to be wanting different flavours on my plate. I head towards the produce section with renewed vigour and if I'm cooking meat or fish it's in a lighter sauce. Maybe I'm motivated by the lack of bulky sweaters that covered my winter indulgence in stews and rich dishes. But I don't just want to eat salad and it's not like tomatoes taste like anything yet. So what does a tasty, interesting spring meal really look like? Well, follow me on my shopping trips this past week...

We were at the Kelowna Farmers & Crafters Market last Saturday and found some fun inspiration from Scott Moran, expert forager. Scott had beautiful fresh dandelion greens. He's a wonderful local resource if you're interested in wild ingredients. Watch for him at the market and sometimes at Urban Harvest's store. I got some lovely blue potatoes, and Green Croft Gardens had some exotic radishes that we took home too; black, watermelon and daikon all went into the quinoa salad I made that night. Later in the week I made a wilted salad with the dandelions and some oven-roasted blue potatoes, golden beets, carrots and red onion, and served that with a piece of Lois Lake steelhead that we got from Jon Crofts at The Codfathers.

The next time I was out shopping I already had recipes in mind, thanks to my Polpo cookbook. A few years ago my girlfriend took me there for lunch and I felt like recreating the vibe and the flavours. I stopped at Guisachan Village to get a fresh baguette at Okanagan Grocery and some Italian flat leaf parsley from Paul's Produce. Then I had to get some prosciutto, anchovy fillets and Buffalo mozzarella. I had arugula, pumpkin seeds, oranges and onions in my fridge all ready to go, along with a bottle of French Tavel rosé to complete our European repast. The chickpea and anchovy crostinis were just as I remembered, and my adaptation with proscuitto, mozzarella and some chopped olives with tomato seed oil was inspired, if I do say so myself :)

At the end of the week I had a sick husband as a dining companion, so that kind of cramped my style. As with most sickies, the request was for chicken noodle soup - out of a can. It took some doing to find one that wasn't full of MSG and/or salt, but finally I managed. I also had some roasted chicken to add to the soup to give it a boost. Since I wasn't sick I decided to fall back on my own childhood soup favourite - corn chowder. My mom used to make it with cream corn and a can of milk. I jazzed it up by sautéing onions and mushrooms first in the pot, then adding some chopped carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes. I added in the corn and milk, along with a few pieces of chicken and a dash of cumin. I let it come to a gentle boil, then finished it with some fresh cilantro and a splash of the Chardonnay I was going to have with it :)

I hope my adventures have helped offer you some new ideas. I'd love to hear your inspirations- it seems often the hardest part is deciding what to cook! You can share with me on Facebook or on my blog. Or maybe I'll see you out shopping! (We're the people with the crazy-coloured shopping bags.)

Happy Spring.



There isn't much a cookie can't cure

My Mom used to say that when I was a kid. It should be said that she was a mean maker of cookies, still is (when I get one). She made lots of treats and cookies were the most fun as a kid because they were so transportable. She made all kinds: hermits, chocolate chip, ginger snaps, butterscotch... all of them containing that wonderful magic that is only found in a home-baked goodie. I was a fortunate child.

We mostly had homemade cookies in our house. The one store-bought cookie that sticks in my memory is OREOs. Mom always bought those for summer holidays camping. There's nothing better than a sandwich cookie for a treat, because it provides its own entertainment. You can try to pull it apart, and if you're successful in getting the top cookie off unbroken, then it becomes like a token. You can work to peel or lick the middle off the bottom cookie. You can double-up the bottom cookies with filling and feel decadent. (Just so you know, we did this long before some marketing executive spoiled it and started selling the "Double-stuffed" version.) OREOs even work in a game of checkers when one person plays with open-faced cookies. The only down side is that you can only play one game :) Those were the days, when eating a simple cookie could fill an entire afternoon.

My other experience with sandwich cookies was selling Girl Guide cookies. It was a daunting task the first time I went out with my unit. I was a Brownie, 8 years old, and I had only been door-to-door on Hallowe'en to trick or treat with my friends. I remember, the first house I went to, I had to run back to the leader's car to ask how much a box cost - I forgot the price! (They were $2 back then; it was a long time ago.) Not much has changed, interestingly enough. Nowadays I work with a unit of Rangers (girls aged 16 and 17) and they are selling lots of cookies to help raise funds for a Guiding trip to Australia this summer. The cookies are more expensive now, as are most things, but the girls still behave the same. They cheer when they sell a box, and they are crushed when people say no. We once went out with the young Sparks (aged 4-6) to help teach them the ropes of safe selling. One girl laid down on someone's lawn and cried the first time someone declined her cute request to buy a box (she had sold to four houses in a row, so it was a bit of a shock).

Girl Guides will be going out door-to-door starting this weekend with the classic sandwich cookies. (For those of you who are mint fans, those cookies come out in October.) If you can spare five bucks, the girls would appreciate your support. Camping and crafts and field trips and all that happens with cookie money. Guiding also provides another opportunity for girls to get the magic that comes from a role model like Mom, whether it's with a cookie that heals or just a listening ear. And just think, with a box of vanilla and chocolate cookies you can build customized cookies when you pull them apart! You can support Canadian traditions that are almost a century old, and feel like a kid again. How is that not a good idea?





And the winner is...

We talk often about how every day in life should be enjoyed and it is important to make the most of every moment. Movies illustrate that point for us on a regular basis, whether the story is about everyday life, like this year's "Boyhood" and "Still Alice" or about an extraordinary life like those depicted in "The Theory of Everything" or "The Imitation Game". Sometimes we need to make sure we share our point of view, like in "Birdman" or "Selma". And sometimes we get a better understanding of others when we spend time with them, as I did with "American Sniper" and "Grand Budapest Hotel". Almost always I have enjoyed sharing the journey, and that is why at our house we celebrate Oscar night. It's a way to remember all those great shared moments, and to share them with friends as we celebrate - with some fantastic food, of course!

Oh I know – you are probably thinking we are a bit nuts. Why would we want to make a big deal about the Oscars, another award show in a whole season of them, like another silly not-so-real reality show? Well, perhaps if I give you some background, you can better understand our point of view.

I grew up in the film business. Most of what I saw over the years was for the small screen, but my Dad did work on a few films and I actually was part of a movie crew when I was 17 years old. I used to dream of seeing my father accept an Oscar when I was little. I loved the “smoke and mirrors” – the magic of how a story came together and was conveyed onto the screen. It was like plugging into someone’s imagination, when it was done right. You knew it was done right when people in the movie theatre were touched in some way by what they saw. To know I was a part of that was to be a part of changing people’s lives for the better. Stories of underdogs, or lifelong dreams, long lost love or even a spy double-crossed… any of them could draw you in and make you forget the rest of the world for a few hours, and when you left the darkened theatre you felt different than when you entered. You also knew that there were others sharing in that experience, because you were not at home alone, but in a theatre full of people.

Sounds corny, doesn’t it? Well, I believed it. I still believe that a good movie is worth its weight in gold. I like to know that those who succeed in making that magic are recognized. The optimist in me likes to believe that sometimes the good guys do win out, even amidst today's world rife with political agendas and conniving marketing plans.

My husband Martin and I met while we both worked as caterers in the movie business. Combining food and movies has always been a fun part of our relationship, so our feast on Oscar night holds an especially dear place in my heart. We are actually working on Oscar night this year so we'll be getting creative and enjoying our nibbles with a "pre-party" where we decide our picks. I've listed some past menu items for you in case you might be inspired to join in our tradition. We don't go as crazy as Wolfgang Puck with the Governor's Ball in Hollywood but we do have a good time.

Stuffed Mushroom Caps

Take a white mushroom, remove the foot with a melon baller and stuff it with a mixture of crab meat, mayonnaise, and Cajun spices. Bake on a cookie sheet until done, around 20 minutes. Let them cool on a paper towel before serving.

 

Sausages on a Crouton

Grill Hungarian sausages from "Illichmann’s", slice them thin and place them on a slice of fresh baguette with a spicy mayonnaise (mix in some chipotle BBQ sauce or paprika and cayenne).

 

Lime Thai Prawns

Buy 21-25 prawns at a reputable fish market. Grate the rind of a lemon on your peeled prawns 4 hours ahead of time to marinate them. In a large enough pan start cooking your prawns. Once they are almost finished cooking, add a few spoonfuls of green curry paste, the juice of a lime and one whole bunch of chopped cilantro.

 

Smoked Salmon Tarts

Buy some mini tart shells and fill them up with some cooked shredded smoked salmon. Add some fresh cream (35%) mixed with a bit of finely chopped green onions or chives and top the whole thing with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Bake until done, around 12 minutes.

 

Local bubbly is fun to have on such an occasion, and there are lots of good ones to choose from. These are some of our favourites, but feel free to experiment and try what strikes your fancy!

  • See Ya Later Ranch Brut
  • 8th Generation Integrity Frizzante
  • The View Distraction Rosé Sparkling
  • Sumac Ridge Stellar's Jay Brut
  • Summerhill Cipes Brut

 

Maybe your indulgence is something different, and if so, then my advice would be to embrace it, celebrate it. Super Bowl Party? March Madness? Season finale of your favourite TV show? The summer solstice? Anytime you can share your passion with others, they appreciate it. Enthusiasm and heartfelt joy have a way of rubbing off. Whatever you choose as your reason for celebrating, enjoy! After all, every one of us deserves a happy ending, don’t we?



Read more Happy Gourmand articles



BBQ Tips

About the author...

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, being someone who is passionate about people having a good time . Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, marketing and service programs. Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column.

She says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that "sense of place" from where the food has come... the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had.

Happy Gourmand is about enjoying life and living in the moment; sharing that joy with others is how I keep those good vibes going!"

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 







The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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