Friday, May 27, 2011

anatomy of a dish

here's a little break down on the fresh main course i'll have for the weekend:

organic quinoa, a super delicious ancient grain that's high in protein.

this is the completed version. it's spiced with harissa paste, pureed onions, garlic & peppers, lemon, cumin, toasted almonds, cilantro & parsley.
it is served with meatballs.

these are the beef ones - from getaway farm.

these are the turkey ones from sweet william. they are both flavoured with garlic, ginger, sumac, fresh herbs & paprika.
the side veggies are:

swiss chard.

caramelized onions.
and roasted red peppers.
the meatballs were dosed with a piquant tomato sauce with fennel seed & olives.
and the finished dish looks like this:

i don't have a lot of the turkey ones (i was a bit late getting over to sweet william on sunday) but i have lots & lots of the beef version.
i also packaged up just the harissa quinoa on its own. i've been eating it cold out of the refrigerator as a salad - and i am completely addicted.
today i'll also be making a green salad with tomatoes, cucumber, olives & goat cheese - reminiscent of a greek salad - with a red wine vinaigrette. 

last night i also did inventory so i can safely say this is what i will have for the market this weekend:

moroccan meatballs (either beef or turkey) with harissa quinoa, swiss chard, caramelized onions & roasted red peppers - serves 2 - $20
harissa quinoa salad $5
'greek' salad $5
lobster mac & cheese - serves 4 - $24
chicken & rib combo $20
creamy british fish pie - serves 4 - $18
asparagus, bacon, caramelized onion & parm quiche - serves 4 - $14
curried chicken & chickpeas with basmati, cauliflower & squash - serves 2 - $16
lamb shepherd's pie - serves 1 - $10
vegetarian chili with brown rice - serves 2 - $12

potato, celery, pear & blue cheese
curried butternut squash
carrot, apple, ginger
french onion with propellor & parm
seafood chowder - mussels, clams, smoked haddock, tilapia
mexican pork posole
vegetarian chili
root vegetable puree
baked beans
red lentil dahl
roasted pepper, tomato & sweet potato

the usual.
the caramel poundcake cupcakes were a big hit last weekend so i'll be making a big batch today.

also, the fresh spring chickens are ready from shani's farm so next week the thai turkey & rice soup, the chicken/leek/broccoli/bacon pies and the chicken & mushroom gyozas will be returning to the menu.
my cookies smell done... gotta run!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

just relax

when i imagine how things are going to play out, it's generally 100% different than how it actually does.
in my brain, buffets would be well organized with things displayed in glass containers & everything would look like my table at the market. in reality it's more like this:

a complete gong show.
but i guess it's more fun like this, and hopefully all your guests are super chilled out and can fend for themselves. 
'jenna, where are the forks?' 
'i dunno' 
'jenna, are there any more tortillas?' 
'i dunno'
'jenna, where are the cups?'
'i dunno'
 'jenna? jenna? jenna?....'
basically, my answer to any question was 'just root around, i'm sure you'll find them somewhere.'
around here, there are no crisp linens, formal centrepieces, or organization of any sort for that matter!
but i guess that's what summer, bbq season is all about - hanging with friends, eating food, getting messy & just havin' a laugh.
some people were even a bit nervous to bring food because i cook for a living & thought it would be all super fancy.
oh contraire.

this is how i roll.
my effort was more focused on the proteins. i cured a side of salmon, from the fish shop, over night and then cedar-planked it. cedar imparts a lovely flavour to the fish, but i mostly use it because then you don't have to worry about it sticking to the grill or making a mess :) i guess it was a hit because this was all that was left by the time i got any photos:

i also braised some pork shoulders over night, transferred them to the grill to smoke & then mixed it all up with some maple bourbon bbq sauce to make pulled pork.

not much to look at! but pulled pork never really is. it was yummy and that's all the matters.
i also made a few ribs.

cooked low & slow and then slathered with a combo of maple bourbon and chipotle lime bbq sauces.
there was also about 18 grilled chicken breasts - but, alas, no photo evidence. those were destined for a build-your-own fajita bar. the chicken was marinated in lots of garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander & herbs. combined with salsa, sour cream, cheese & peppers it was quite delectable & messy.
i made some salads too - it wasn't only meat!

this is the broccoli salad with toasted almonds, bacon & raisins. i also made a ginormous batch of marinated veggies and pasta salad. i was just reading the latest issue of bon appetit & they deemed cold pasta salad entirely 'gauche'. i don't care. i love it. i've been eating it out of mixing bowls for 2 days now and it just goes to show you, you don't have to be a slave to everything the mags tell you.
the cheddar & chive biscuits also went over pretty well.

they make a wonderful receptacle for pulled pork & coleslaw - yum.
and what would a shindig be without a ginormous cupcake?

and when entertaining, just remember, your guests will be thinking 'everything always tastes way better when you didn't have to make it yourself,' so just relax.

Friday, May 20, 2011

long weekend

it's the long weekend - yahoo! and you know what that means? bbq season is officially upon us. i've noticed a marked increase in sales of bbq sauce over the past couple of weeks and i'm hoping it goes nuts this weekend. i have a fresh batch of chipotle lime simmering away right now, just getting up to temp before i can jar it. should make about 24 bottles, which is good because it's my best seller!
i also have to get all of my baking finished because i need to make another trip to home depot, canadian tire, kent & rona this afternoon (i like to go to them all and compare prices...). i'm in the market for lots of wood chips, cedar planks & even some new cast iron grills for the old 'que. can you tell i like bbq? it's great, you don't have to worry about causing small fires in the kitchen or setting off the smoke detector, you don't have to wash any pots or pans, you get to chill outside all afternoon and it tastes pretty darn good.
i'm sort of obsessed with making smoke pouches, using planks, firing up the rotisserie and cooking low & slow over indirect heat - i was the resident bbq expert at the urban element ;) so i'll make sure to post lots and lots of pictures, tips & tricks throughout the summer, commencing on monday... as long as the rain holds off. 
but first, i have to make it through the weekend at the market. this week i made a few fishcakes.

183 to be exact. so they're all fresh but i froze them right away - no space in the fridge.
i also made traditional shepherd's pie with some fresh, ground, spring lamb from shani's farm.

i cooked the lamb with lots of onions, garlic, carrots, celery, peas, dark beer & a splash of worchestershire. then it gets topped with cheddar & chive mashed potatoes - the flavour combination sort of reminds me of a welsh rarebit, rich & tangy at the same time.
the chives were also the first thing i've harvested from the garden (if you can really call it a harvest).

but exciting nonetheless.
the rhubarb is also ready for picking. i'm thinking a rhubarb/apple/raspberry crumble on monday and then some cupcake experiments next week...
this week i have a pretty extensive menu, i have one regular freezer, one stand up freezer and one chest freezer full of product... i'll write the menu out here because undoubtedly i will forget something when i'm rushing to write the blackboard tomorrow morning.

fishcakes & baked beans $12
lamb shepherd's pie small $10 large $20
lobster mac & cheese small $10 large $24
quiches $14 (bacon, onion, asparagus & parm, or tomato, goat cheese, spinach & arugula)
creamy british fish pie $18
bbq chicken & rib combo $20
sausage & cheese curd baked penne $7.5
curried chicken with chickpeas, cauliflower & squash $16
chicken, leek & broccoli pie $15

for soups i have:
curried butternut squash
carrot, apple, ginger
thai turkey & rice
roasted, red pepper, tomato & sweet potato (spicy)
mexican pork posole (spicy)
seafood chowder
french onion
vegetarian chili
creamy root vegetable puree
red lentil dahl
vegan vegetable stew

for sweets i have:
snickers brownies
lemon meringue tarts
oatmeal, white chocolate & cranberry cookies
chocolate & coconut macaroons
red velvet, chocolate, carrot & lemon cupcakes with
raspberry, chocolate, cream cheese & blueberry frostings

today i'm also experimenting with a caramel poundcake cupcake so i may have that tomorrow as well (with chocolate buttercream), depending on how experimentation works out...
now i'm off to the races!
a demain.

Monday, May 16, 2011

assembly line

sometimes i feel like a factory. each week i don't think i could possibly produce anymore than i did the previous week, yet somehow i do. even after a great weekend at the market, my freezers are still at critical levels! 
luckily, the fresh option (the goat cheese stuffed chicken) didn't stick around long enough to make it to the freezers. the monumental batch of fishcakes i made is all gone and the shepherd's pies have disappeared as well. this week i ordered a bunch of fresh ground spring lamb from shani's farm so i think i'll make some traditional lamb shepherd's pies, and potentially some lamb moussaka...
ok, back to production schedules. 
organization is key. having all of my ingredients prepped separately and gathering my mise en place means that i can actually function as an assembly line.

this is my quiche factory. i like to roll out the crusts, freeze, blind bake and then fill them with yumminess. last week i found the first of the season's local asparagus at noggins, was gifted slab bacon from roselane (yay, thanks!) and i had a ton of foxhill cheese on hand, so i figured it was time to make quiche. having things organized like this makes things run smoothly & efficiently.
it works the same for lobster mac & cheese. i cook & clean the lobsters, roast the tomatoes, make the bechamel, cook the pasta and then combine & assemble. 

turned into this:

it wound up making 24 large & 16 small lobster macs... zoiks!
my biggest worry is about having things get overcooked, particularly since i know it will be cooked again when you take it home. so i make sure that everything is cold when it all comes together, that way there isn't any residual heat from the sauce or pasta (which i leave super al dente) that could turn tender lobster meat to rubber - i think that is my biggest challenge... with everything i make actually.
this week was also bean-tastic.

i have been making epic batches of baked beans (to accompany the monumental batches of fishcakes). i've got the recipe down, learned how to work a pressure cooker and can now rock them out at a much faster rate than i ever thought possible.
this week, vegetarian chili with black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans & corn was also on the menu.

i like to let it mellow in the fridge overnight - since things like chili are always better the next day - and then do a proper taste test before packaging it all up. 
same goes for all of the soups. flavours can change when they are given time to come together overnight, so i like to revisit them the following day. and to tell you the truth, sometimes by the end of a heavy production day, my palette is completely confused, bombarded & exhausted and needs some time to rest before it's back at it.
i also made a rich & unctuous white bean ragout this week. i cooked the beans risotto-style with white wine, roasted garlic, caramelized onions & parm, let is cool and then stirred in roasted tomatoes, asparagus & arugula.
and even though i try to be super organized & efficient while in full production mode, sometimes there are little hiccups along the way...

this is what happens when you try to cram waaaayyyy too much stuff in your fridge at once. luckily, the flying bbq sauce missed the chili and the white bean ragout chilling out on the bottom shelf.
fridays have become my full-on baking day. i fill an entire rack-n-roll with cupcakes, cookies, brownies, tarts, biscuits, rolls... i always figured the lemon meringue tarts & snickers brownies would be my best sellers. i was wrong. everyone is crazy for cupcakes.

i made this many on friday & then i had to bake more on saturday night after the market... and i have to make a cupcake delivery this evening.
i also go through a lot of frosting.

i like frosting! this week it was raspberry, blueberry (note to self: don't wear a butter yellow skirt when this is around...), vanilla & chocolate. i think 3 kgs worth, and it's all gone. perhaps i was a bit too heavy-handed.

and so it begins for another week: clean, plan, shop, cook, package, clean, plan, shop, cook, package, clean...

Saturday, May 14, 2011


so blogger has been down and that's why i didn't post a menu for the weekend - well now just for sunday i guess...sorry :(

lobster mac & cheese, spring leeks, tomatoes, foxhill curds
goat cheese & pesto stuffed chicken breast with a side of white bean ragout - asparagus, arugula, tomatoes, parm
roselane bacon, caramelized onion, asparagus & foxhill cheese quiches
vegetarian black bean & corn chili with brown rice
marinated vegetable salad
fishcakes & baked beans
curried chicken & chickpeas with cauliflower, butternut squash & basmati rice
creamy, british-style, seafood pie - mussels, smoked haddock, sea trout
bbq chicken & rib combo, loaded baked potatoes, sweet corn succotash
sausage & cheese curd penne with foxhill cheese curds
there's also 1 chicken, leek, broccoli pie in the freezer (without bacon), and 1 tomato, spinach & goat cheese quiche - i just haven't been writing them on the blackboard because it's already way too confusing!

i'm also now out of the beef & barley, cream of broccoli, and beet parsnip & pear soups... and chipotle lime bbq sauce...

i know it's short & sweet but i have to get to the kitchen - fresh rolls, lemon tarts, cookies & lemon cupcakes are on the prep list for tonight...
see ya tomorrow... hopefully.

Monday, May 9, 2011

i like to buy things :)

being a vendor at the seaport market is great - i can shop and work at the same time! 
normally i am just shopping for product for the business but sometimes i like to splurge a little on myself too - and by 'a little' i actually mean, it's starting to become a problem... but there is tons of really nice art, jewellery, crafts, plants & snacks tempting me on a daily basis.
one of the first artists who really grabbed my attention was daina deblette scarola.

i love the colours, the subject matter & basically everything about her work. her business is art by daina and the 'beachy' vibe of her work really fits with the decor chez moi. i'd like to start a collection of all of her 'mini mondays' as well... slowly but surely.
next up is shelagh duffett. she is also no stranger to colour! most of her work is fun, bright and folky, but it was her super cool food photography that really caught my eye.

this large print hangs in my kitchen, it was actually snapped at the chicken burger, and her smaller art cards adorn my table at the market. she dropped by the other day and took some photos of my little business and me as i was folding gyozas - check out her blog.
i've also been collecting necklaces from florence wagg.

she fixed my pearls for me yesterday too, thanks! i love her use of toggles - reminds me of tiffany's - and the colours are right up my alley. she sells loads of handbags and is on etsy as well (shelagh & daina sell there too).
don manning is another great local artist and i think he may be addicted to my cupcakes. everyday i can see him approaching my table, toonie in hand and devious grin on his face.

this is a painting don did of victor kiley's stage. if it were still standing, it would be about 100 feet from where i live now. he's also given me some bookmarks depicting scenes of prospect and is planning on sketching some of my cupcakes - yes, i would classify it as an addiction :)
i really love the style of ironwood bowls. until i can save up my pennies for a beautiful bowl or cutting board, i've been collecting the handmade pencils.

this one is my fav. it's made out of a lilac branch and it's wonky curves fit perfectly in my hand. lori, who makes them, also teaches shop class so all the kids will have them soon and i'm sure they'll be the next big trend to sweep junior high - step aside silly bandz!
it's also that time of year when green things are popping up. i've been buying herbs, seedlings and flowers.

my kitchen counter is turning into a veritable jungle. i'm very excited for the pansies. i'm creating a wedding cake of cupcakes next month. they will have a thin, lavender-tinted, cream cheese frosting and be adorned with sugared pansy flowers. should be quite an undertaking - i'll make sure to document my trials & tribulations as i go.
on to snacks - my fav!
ratinaud charcuterie specializes in traditional french cuisine. since i left ottawa i've been craving rillettes, but they're not something i would whip up for myself. now ratinaud can fill that void.

and of course, i always indulge in a massive steak on sunday nights. after a busy week, i'm drained and this is how i recharge.

thank you getaway farm. and yeah, that's ketchup. i think it's 'ghetto-chic', it's how i like it and i am 100% unashamed!
and i guess that's the beauty of being a vendor at a local market, you meet people, support one another & find some of the best stuff around. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

freezer's full again

by sunday afternoon last week my chalkboard looked a little dismal.

don't get me wrong it was totally awesome, but it did mean i had a lot to do to get my inventory back to where i like it. and yesterday that is what i did!
i stocked up on a lot of the dishes that people have been asking for: shepherd's pies, curries, creamy fish pies, and quiches. this week, the curry is chicken, chickpea, squash & cauliflower; the fish pie contains sea trout, mussels & smoked haddock; and i made 3 flavours of quiche - bacon/caramelized onions/aged gouda, roasted tomatoes/wilted greens/goat cheese, asparagus/herbs/onions/parm. i also made 1 chicken, leek & broccoli pie (no bacon in this one). i'm not going to write it on the board so ask me if you'd like to have it...
after a little freezer organization i discovered that i have 2 beef & barley soups left, and i made a new batch of roasted red pepper/tomato/sweet potato soup. this batch is vegan & fat-free too, not to mention the most vibrant shade of red ever!
today i will be baking and prepping all of the fresh options i will have for the weekend. i really liked the mix & match easter dinner - so, this week i'm calling it 'build you own bento box'. i'll be grilling up copious quantities of getaway farm flank steak. it's been chillin' all night in a tangy miso/ginger/sweet soy marinade. i also have chicken in a spicy green curry marinade. it will be skewered, crusted with toasted cashews & served with a cooling mint/basil/cilantro sauce. then i'll be making some grilled teriyaki tofu, sesame soba noodle salad with loadsa veggies, and asian greens with mushrooms in a miso peanut dressing. oh and gyozas with nuoc mam - if i have time...
everything is sort of a hybrid of southeast asian flavours. i'm sure nothing is actually authentic, just my take on the classics, but it'll all be tasty and you can't go wrong when drawing on these flavours:

this is my arsenal for the day.
and finally, the sun is out, no bbq'ing in the rain - yippeeee!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

buying local

this is the insane-o burger i had last night. it was pretty darn good. and the cool part is that i was able to get almost all of the ingredients at the market on sunday when i was twitchy and just couldn't stand at my table all day...
it's a bacon double cheeseburger with caramelized onions, lettuce, pickles & loads of condiments. the beef came from getaway farm, the bacon is from roselane farm, the cheese is from that dutchman and the buns are from spice of life.  i've been buying from getaway, roselane and the dutchman for awhile, i'm addicted to the bagels from spice of life, but these buns are a new discovery. they're sweet potato based, nice & soft, totally awesome and perfect for grilled burgers. now that bbq season is upon us, i have a sneaking suspicion i will be consuming a lot of these - but it's cool, it's like getting a serving of vegetables in a bun...right?
now there are a lot of folks who are super die-hard about buying local - ie. the 100 mile diet. i buy local as much as possible but i also don't like to restrict myself too much - spices, coffee, chocolate... what i do like is finding the best ingredients possible, and those typically come from the local farmers and purveyors. 
my background is in fine dining, and that's how i learned to cook. every kitchen i've ever worked in had very close relationships with the local farmers. they would show up to the back door with their wares, work with the chefs to decide what to grow & sometimes let the cooks grow small gardens on their property and help set up restaurant gardens in the city. i remember one day just before service, we had run out of chanterelles and were trying to decide what to do, when all of a sudden, there was a knock at the door. a little frenchman with a wicker basket full of chanterelles, he had just foraged, was wondering if we'd like to buy any... are you kidding me? it was pretty cool/trippy/a godsend/good karma - almost like a scene out of movie. i'm trying to develop relationships with the farmers here so things like that happen to me.
now, i am a very picky eater - my palate is getting better & i practise a lot - but i've always hated tomatoes. turns out i just hated the icky, mealy, watery tomatoes found at the grocery store. in-season, heirloom tomatoes are now one of my most favourite things. i grew 27 varieties in my backyard garden in ottawa, and i'm going to try my best to grow some here too - it will probably involve building a windbreak but we'll see. things that are grown when they are supposed to, under the conditions that nature intended, just taste better, plain & simple.
i just love the flavour of the chicken from shani's farm (and the sausages too). it's not injected with water or fed things to fatten them up unnaturally fast. i've actually been talking with the owner - this season's chickens are almost ready, so i'll have some on the menu very shortly.
another farm i really dig is getaway, their beef is rad. it's not crazy expensive and you pay for what you get: beef that is raised in nice, happy conditions, by a farm family & they eat grass instead of weird, creepy things. 
roselane farm is just mind-boggling to me. the selection & quality of the products that the owner is able to pump out blows my mind - he must not sleep... like ever. the pepperettes help me get through the really rough days, the sandwich meats are often traded for cupcakes, and i love to buy the slab bacon and cut it up myself.
foxhill, that dutchman, noggins, riverview herbs, selwood green, sweet williams & the fish shop are the other places i like to spend my money (aside from all the jewellery & art i always pick up at market, but that's a whole 'nother blog post...).
this week i'm channeling japan. definitely, miso-marinated getaway flank with soba noodle salad, and i'm also thinking grilled teriyaki tofu, cashew chicken yakitori, shiitake gyozas, steamed bok choy with soy & peanuts and some other fun things. 
this week's menu is sort of a riff on a lunch dish i used to be obsessed with in ottawa. john taylor at domus cafe used to make a wonderful miso-grilled quail atop steamed bok choy with a spicy peanut dressing - sounds odd but it was so craveable. john taylor is also considered one of the best - if not the best - chefs in ottawa. if you take the time to read the menu, you'll see all the references to local farms and his emphasis on seasonal/regional cuisine. i never worked for him, but most of my coworkers had and his style definitely permeated the menus of all the other high-end restaurants in the city. 
there seem to be a few halifax restaurants that share the same philosophy - brooklyn warehouse, fid resto, chives , and mix fresh kitchen. i've only been to one of the 4 since i've been back, but their menus read really well and they are all definitely on the top of my list of priorities.
now i'm hungry.