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Three Ways to Make an Audience Hungry

17 Apr

To find oneself sitting in a studio on a nearly-empty stomach with Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons is a bit torturous. The smells wafting forth from the stove over the course of 30 minutes are pretty intoxicating. J and I sat through the taping of a Cityline show featuring the three chefs using a variety of fresh herbs, wishing we could sneak up and steal bites off the plates. Chef Bonancini featured rosemary in a beautiful branzino dish; chef Capra made a creative BBQ pork and chive pancake; and chef Parsons used chervil in a light lamb loin dish.

Chef Capra and me

Chef Capra and me

Chef Bonacini and I...just hangin'  with some herbs.

Chef Bonacini and me…just hangin’ with some herbs.

In addition to the plates the chefs put up, the show discussed planting various herbs for use at home. We have sage, thyme and lemon thyme ready to go and a basil plant that has miraculously lived for months on our windowsill (apparently I left my black thumb of death back at our old apartment!). This show got me motivated to get out into my garden – now that I have one – and plant some rosemary, mint and maybe some chives, too!


The beautiful array of greenery on display.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some planting and cooking to get to..


Baked Salmon w/ Watermelon-Pineapple Salsa

29 Aug

“What do we have in the fridge?”
“Half a watermelon.”
“OK, what else?”
“Some pineapple…and…yeah, no, that’s about it.”

Right. One of those fridge days. So what to make with this fruit combo? How about adding in some black beans, jalapeno and red pepper to make a filling, healthy salsa and using it to top a piece of baked salmon? Done and done! This would also work really well with tilapia if you’re not up for salmon.

This was a simple and hearty meal that left me very satisfied. Definitely a keeper!

Serves 2.


2 salmon filets
2 c (roughly) watermelon, cubed
2 c (roughly) pineapple, cubed
1 can (14 oz) black beans, drained & rinsed
1 avocado, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 sweet pepper, diced
1 lime, juiced
salt & pepper
handful of cilantro, chopped (optional)


1. Preheat your oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the salmon on the foil, coat with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
2. Place the fish in the oven and bake for 13 – 15 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the watermelon, pineapple, jalepeno, avocado, sweet pepper, black beans, cilantro and lime juice. Stir and add salt & pepper to taste. (*Depending on how spicy you like your food, you might want to add a little hot sauce to the salsa in addition to the jalapeno.)
4. Remove the fish from the oven. Plate and top with the salsa.

Broiled Sea Bass w/ Coconut Curry Sauce

23 Jan

To all my fabulous readers: if you do nothing else, make friends with a fishmonger. They will always steer you right. There happens to be a fabulous fish store not too far from where I live (Avenue Seafood) and we’ve been getting great stuff from them for years. I walked in yesterday intending to buy some halibut fillets. The matriarch of the store shook her head – almost violently: “No, you don’t want the halibut. Look at these fillets: they’re not good enough for you. What else can I offer you? I have some great cod, or maybe some sea bass? How about some sea bass? I have some beautiful fish in the back!” I have learned from experience, just go with what she says. Since I was in the mood to try something new anyway, the sea bass was just fine with me.

(A note about sea bass: try to avoid buying Chilean as they are terribly over-fished.)

I surfed around the internet for a bit for inspiration and finally hit on some Indian-flavoured dishes that served as a jumping off point. Here’s what I ended up with. You’ll need about an hour total for this as the sauce needs to reduce and thicken. It’s an incredibly simple recipe, though, that requires almost no prep work at all. Just make sure to keep an eye on your sauce so it doesn’t bubble over.

Serves 2.


1 tb vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ts curry powder
1 13oz can coconut milk
1/2 c chicken stock (low sodium if store-bought)
2 ts salt, plus more for seasoning the fish
1 ts pepper, plus more for seasoning the fish
1 ts fish sauce
1 dash chili powder, optional
1 tb lemon juice
2 sea bass fillets


1. Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and curry powder. Sauté until onions are translucent, approximately 4 minutes.
2. Add in the coconut milk and chicken stock. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
3. Add in the salt, pepper, fish sauce and chili powder. Lower heat and let the sauce simmer for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste every once in a while and adjust seasoning as necessary.
4.  Add in the lemon juice at the end and stir.
5. Meanwhile, heat the broiler and place the oven rack roughly 2″ from the top.
6. Line a sheet with foil and place the fish on top. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 8 minutes, until the fish is opaque.
7. Plate the fish and generously spoon the sauce over the top.  Best served with over rice to absorb the extra sauce.

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Foil-Baked Salmon

22 Aug

In the never-ending quest to find more delicious, easy fish recipes I came across Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe for salmon baked in foil. I had a quick look through the ingredients and decided it was worth trying out. Picked up some beautiful salmon at New Seaway Fish Market in Kensington (where they will cut you a filet to any size you like – just ask! And ignore the curmudgeonly fishmonger’s attitude. He’s actually really funny.) as we were down there anyway. This is the kind of recipe that makes the most out of a few delicious ingredients. Try to use the fresh herbs if you can, but the dried ones work well, too, and pack a lot of flavour. Wrap it all up in foil, throw it in the oven and 20 minutes later you have melt-in-your-mouth salmon!

As a side note, you can prep these ingredients and have everything ready to go for up to six hours ahead of time, so this would be a great dish for company. Just keep it in the fridge and put it in the oven when you’re ready.

Serves 4.


2 tomatoes, chopped OR 1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
2 shallots, chopped
2 tb + 2 ts extra virgin olive oil
2 tb fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 1/2 ts fresh oregano OR 3/4 ts dried oregano
1 1/2 fresh thyme OR 3/4 ts dried thyme
1 ts salt
3/4 ts pepper
4 salmon filets


1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
2. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, shallots, 2 tb olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, oregano, 1/2 ts salt and a pinch of pepper.
3. In the centre of a sheet of foil, spoon 1/2 ts of oil. Place the fish on top and then coat. Season with salt & pepper and spoon 1/4 of the tomato mixture on top. Fold the sides over the fish and seal  tightly. Repeat for the other filets.
4. Place all on a baking sheet and cook 20-25 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and unwrap. Using a spatula, carefully lift the fish from the packet and plate.

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Steamed Cod in Ginger-Soy Broth

14 Jun

In the ever-expanding search for more fish recipes, I came across this one and gave it a go last night. I decided to add in some sweetness to the original recipe, as both the ginger and rice wine vinegar are both quite pungent. It follows my rules, though: simple, quick and ultimately, pretty damn delicious. I recommend serving it with rice: the sauce in which the fish is cooked is delicious on basmati.

Serves 2.


Cod Fillets

2 cod fillets
3 tb rice wine vinegar
2 tb soy sauce
1 1/2 tb ginger, grated or finely chopped
2 ts hoisin
1 ts sugar
2 scallions
salt & pepper


1. In a large skillet, combine vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, hoisin and sugar. Bring to a simmer.
2. Salt and pepper the fish and place the fillets in the pan. Bring liquid to a boil.
3. Cover and lower the heat so that the liquid is only simmering. Cook 6 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, slice scallions into 2″ pieces, lengthwise. After the 6 minutes, lift the lid and place the scallions on the fish. Cook one more minute.
5. Remove fish from the pan and plate. Taste sauce and adjust as necessary.
6. Spoon sauce on to fish and, if serving with rice, on to rice.

Finished product!

Revamped Tuna Melts

31 May

A  tuna melt is one of those classic dishes that my mom used to make and to which I turn for a quick meal. But after making many, MANY tuna melts I was looking to switch things up a bit, maybe even make them a little healthier. Then, lo and behold, I came across a show and they used portobello mushrooms instead of bread. This, I can get behind. Inspired, I headed into the kitchen…

Note that the mushrooms do shrink in the oven. This recipe calls for two per person, but if you’re feeding extra-hungry people, you might want to add a third.

Serves 2


4 portobello mushrooms
1 tb extra virgin olive oil
1 can tuna
1 tb sesame oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 sweet pepper, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 c parsley, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
4 slices of cheese (cheddar, havarti)
4 slices of tomato


1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Clean and stem the mushrooms, then brush with  olive oil. Broil on lined baking sheet for 10 minutes, turning once.
3. Meanwhile, combine the tuna, sesame oil, celery, pepper, parsley, lemon juice, salt & pepper.
4. Divide the tuna among the mushrooms  and top with cheese slice. Broil two more minutes for melty goodness.
5. Remove the melts from the oven and top with tomato slice. Serve with green salad, or put greens on top!

Courtesy of FN

Citrus Salmon

15 Feb

Salmon is one my favourite fishies so I’m always looking for new ways to make it. I think I’ve pretty much mastered the coconut salmon and J makes a fantastic black pepper- and coriander-coated salmon dish. I wanted something simple, flavourful and easy to make so I decided to give this one a whirl!

Serves 2.


2 salmon fillets, boneless & skinless
1 lemon
1 orange
2 tb cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper
2 tb olive oil


1.  In a shallow dish, zest the orange and the lemon. Squeeze out all the juice, as well. Toss in the cilantro, reserving a little for garnish, and stir.
2. Place the fillets in the marinade and coat the fish. Marinate for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 400F.
4. When the 30 minutes are up, heat the olive oil in a skillet to medium high. Shake off the excess marinade and place the filets in the pan. Cook 2 minutes and then flip. Season with salt & pepper as you cook.
5. Place the pan with the fish into the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes. (I lean toward cooking it for less time rather than more.)
6.  Remove the fish from the oven and plate. Garnish with leftover cilantro and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Crispy Cod Sandwich

20 Jan

I’m a big cod fan (as evidenced by the many portions of cod I had in Vancouver) but I don’t always think to buy it. We’re trying to eat more fish at home and while we love salmon & tilapia, we were due for a change. So to the  fabulous Bite Me cookbook we turned and tried this recipe out. The cod came out buttery with a great crispy cornmeal coating and the homemade tartar sauce that accompanied it? More, please. J substituted hamburger buns for onion buns and I think it came out better that way.

Serves 6.


1/2 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 ts salt
1/4 ts pepper
1/4 c milk
6 cod fillets
1 c mayo
1/4 c chopped pickles
1 tb lemon juice
2 ts Dijon mustard
pinch of cayenne (or more if you want it to be spicy!)
6 buns
shredded lettuce


1. Preheat your oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with foil and use some cooking spray to ensure the fish won’t stick.
2. Combine the cornmeal, salt & pepper in a bowl. In a separate bowl, pour the milk.
3. Dip the fish in the milk first, then dredge it into the cornmeal mixture.
4. Bake for 7 minutes. Then flip over the fishy and bake another 6 minutes.
5. For the tartar sauce,  whisk together the mayo, pickles, lemon juice, Dijon and cayenne.
6. Toast the buns and then smear the insides with the tartar sauce. Place the fish in the buns, top with lettuce and voila!

Peppered Salmon w/ Creamy Chick Pea Dressing

12 Nov

J made this Tyler Florence recipe the other night and it came out beautifully! The salmon was crispy on the outside, but flaky and tender on the inside. Tons of flavour from the crust, no question, and it was very tasty with the accompanying chick pea dressing. Nicely done, J!

Serves 4.

1/4 c black peppercorns
1/4 c coriander seeds
4  salmon fillets
2-3 tb extra virgin olive oil


salt & pepper
1 can chick peas
2 ts cumin
1 ts paprika
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil


1. Grind peppercorns and coriander in a clean coffee grinder and pour the mixture onto a plate.
2. Roll salmon in the mixture.
3. Heat 2-3 tb olive oil in a large skillet and heat til the oil is smoking.
4. Sprinkle fish with salt & pepper and place in the pan, searing 4-5 minutes per side.
5. For the vinaigrette, drain the chick peas into a large bowl, reserving the liquid.
6. Add olive oil, cumin, paprika, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Spoon 1/2 the mixture into a blender and puree. Add in the liquid as necessary to thin out the mixture. (You’ll need roughly half of it.)
7. Stir the puree back into the rest of the vinaigrette to thicken.
8. Dish the chick pea dressing into the middle of the plate and place the salmon on top.

Halibut w/ Roasted Grape Tomato Salsa

22 Sep

J made this dish for his mom’s birthday last week. I can’t wait to have it again! The recipe is courtesy of Christine Cushing. First one we’ve made of hers and I will definitely be searching out more!

Halibut can be a bit expensive. If you don’t feel like splurging, haddock would work in a pinch!

Serves 4.


1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half, crosswise
12 red pearl onions, blanched and peeled
5-6 tb olive oil
2 lime (zest & juice)
5-10 thyme sprigs
salt & pepper
4 60z halibut (or haddock) filets
1 tb thyme, chopped
2 c basmati rice, cooked


1. Preheat your oven to 375F.
2. Add 2-3 tb of the olive oil, tomatoes, pearl onions, zest & juice of one lime and thyme sprigs into a roasting pan. Roast until tomatoes and onions start to soften, roughly 7-10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, season fish with salt and pepper, zest from 1 lime and chopped thyme. Add 2tb of olive oil to sauté pan over medium high heat. When pan is hot, sear both sides (1 to 2 minute per side).
4. Transfer the fish to the roasting pan.  Roast the fish with the vegetables for 7-9 minutes.
5. Plate the fish with the tomatoes & onions, drizzling some of the juices from the pan.  Serve with the rice.

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