Tag Archives: fast

Halibut Cheeks Poached in White Wine and Shallots: A Fast, Enticing, and Unusual Summer Feast

Do you ever feel a bit odd eating animals’ various body parts?  Pork belly, “prairie oysters” (Google it or contact me, if you really want to know…), or halibut cheeks make me visualize those particular bits of the anatomy.

In the case of halibut cheeks, I can picture a big halibut swimming with its cheeks all puffed out, as if it were about to blow out candles on a birthday cake.  I am pretty sure that halibut usually do not have birthday cakes, with or without candles. The frosting would get all wet in the ocean…and how would the candles manage to stay lit?

Regardless of halibutian (halibutty? halibuttery? can there be no adjectival form of “halibut’?) birthday celebrations, I find fish cheeks most intriguing.  The consistency is not the firm, rich flake of a halibut fillet but rather is somewhere between a sea scallop and a chicken thigh – meatier, a bit roapy (not in a bad way, however), and much more substantial.

Gratuitous kitty and wildlife interlude:

What could Jinja be watching now?

That is no flying halibut in the nasturtiums...

it is a ruffous hummingbird (no hummingbirds were harmed in creating this post, just one halibut).

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Oaty-Almondy Crisps: A Fast, Crunchy, Dairy-free, Flourless Cookie

How do you feel about baking or cooking for people with food sensitivities, allergies, and such?  I think it is a fun challenge to make something out of the ordinary, when standard basic  ingredients are out of the question, for health reasons.

Of course, eschewing ingredients – or categories, such as meat for vegetarians – may be a matter of personal taste or choice, which I always try to accommodate, too.  I particularly like to find ways to bake and cook good things for those cannot tolerate wheat (celiacs, for instance) or dairy.  Wheat and dairy, of course, are mainstays of baking, so the challenge can be a bit daunting in dessert preparation.

On two separate occasions recently, I needed to bake, first, for a friend who currently cannot tolerate butter or nuts and then for one who never can eat diary or wheat.  The day I needed to bake them for our first friend, I found a recipe in The Cookie Book, by Catherine Atkinson, Joanna Farrow, and Valerie Barrett, for “Malted Oaty Crisps.”  Malt is an ingredient I really enjoy using, especially in conjunction with chocolate (Whoppers and Maltesers and other chocolate-malted milk balls are great confections, way up there in my book of candy favourites), so I keep malt powder in my pantry – and sometimes, the chocolate-malty candies, which do not last long enough to be a staple.

Nevertheless, this one recipe called for two tablespoons of malt extract.  Malt extract??? I beg your pahdon, guv’nor?!?  I had never come across this before.  I did not bother to seek the ingredient online, as I wanted to bake it that day – and it goes without saying that a very obscure item such as malt extract will not be lurking in one of our island’s three small food shops. The cookbook (or should I write, “cookery book”?) author was from the UK, so I imagine it is a more typical British ingredient . (I will turn to Jackie of I am A Feeder, as my go-to authority for all food-matters-in-Jolly-Old-There-Will-Always-Be-An-England.  Jackie, what do you say about this malt extract matter???)

For the cookie description – and the recipe…

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No-Bake Icebox Whipped Cream Zebra Mocha Cake: Cool, Quick, No-Need-for-heat Summer Indulgence

Have you ever heard of zebra pie?  I am not sure what the name is for this fantastic fast dessert.  A close friend of mine, MHS, always referred to it as such back in university days.  MHS loved her mocha desserts, so I thought of the variation in today’s post while recalling her appreciation for cookies and coffee.  While MHS – who is very smart and knowledgeable about desserts – called it “zebra pie”, I really think it more appropriately falls into the icebox-cake category.  So I have renamed it.

At its most basic, there are just two ingredients:  store-bought chocolate wafers (for an unpaid plug, Mr. Christie in Canada or Nabisco in the US) and either non-dairy whipped topping – to which I say, “No, thank you” – or whipped cream – yes, please!   Usually, I whip heavy cream with vanilla extract and a bit of sugar.  However, I had just read about a mocha-whipped cream topping a molten chocolate cake in a recipe somewhere lately (who can recall? – so many blogs, so many cookbooks, so little time).

The “zebra” comes from the vertical stripes of the cake.  I guess one should not really have a tan-coloured whipped cream for a true zebra, but this cake is so delectable that one can overlook the zebra-who-has-been-running-around-grazing-on-the-dust-on-the-veldt look from the coffee-infused whipped cream.

Sometimes I have no idea what these cats are up to....

A fawn and doe are the attraction.

About as close to a zebra as one can get on this island....

So much for observing the zebra- substitute (Jinja's dirty paws almost make her a mocha zebra).

Besides some old horses on the island, the closest to a zebra around here is a young spotted fawn wandering around our property.  George and Jinja seemed to be monitoring it for suspicious behaviour, so I had to include the GKPs (“gratuitous kitty pictures”) in this post.

For the simple directions and the recipe…

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Trapanese Pesto Pasta

I believe I have not hidden my devotion to America’s Test Kitchen and their rigourous testing-tasting, tasting-testing, or whatever their process is for creating the best never-fail recipes.  ATK has never let me down.

When I came across ATK’s version of pesto, as served in Trapani, Sicily, it made me decide to make it right away.  I did not have such a sauce during a trip to Sicily, but all the foods were memorable in Sicily and the Aolian island of Lipari, including the blood oranges everywhere (the inspiration for my blood orange marmalade).  So the combination of ATK with Sicily seemed like a major convergence of culinary imperative.

Living on an island not even as large as Lipari (and, of course, nowhere as big as Sicily itself), there are certain ingredients not always available.  With the urgency of making this sauce, I could not find any decent cherry tomatoes, in mid-June, so I had to resort to an island act of forced creativity, substituting a tin of Italian cherry tomatoes in its place.  This is not as much a locavore’s meal as is possible, though one could argue that it is more authentic in its Italian origins (olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and the said tomatoes all hailed from Italy – OK, I used imported linguine, too…).

For the easy recipe…

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Halibut in Lime, Ginger, and Cayenne Cream Sauce: Super-fast and satisfying dish – just for the halibut

As I mentioned before, I was rather odd as a child.  One example that comes to mind – with halibut as a punch line – was an overnight field trip to a wilderness campground around age 11.

I had taken karate before this trip, yet I stopped upon reaching the first belt (the yellow belt, which is a cowardly far cry from the ultimate:  the famous black sash).  However, I was happy with that rank and to have achieved one higher level; I really did not care for the martial arts.  So I continued to wear my karate get-up – replete with the yellow belt – whenever possible.

During this particular trip, the fizzy candy which explodes in one’s mouth called, “Pop Rocks”, were all the rage.  I had a variety of packets with me, which I shared with my friends.  (This is the first of two-sort-of-but-not-really-directly-food-related references in this flashback).  The karate outfit fortunately had pockets for hiding “Pop Rocks” and other candy.

After the dinner in the “mess hall”, which I definitely do not remember, we participated in skits.  I was in a skit with another boy and it was a joke, the punchline of which was “I did it just for the halibut!” (if you were not paying attention, that is the second of the two food references, one which is supposed to be a play on words, albeit it childish).  What I remember is that I did not deliver this line but had to fall down as if struck down  by the painful pun – which I did during rehearsal.

However, during the skit when I was outfitted in my karate robe with yellow belt, I fell and knocked over the other boy.  My pratfall was not the most graceful of stage falls, nor the most pleasant experience for my fellow actor, given that I was chubby at the time, as I had yet to start with my tennis fixation which began soon after this trip.

Quick and simple mise-en-place just for the halibut.

For the halibut recipe and more….

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Qualicum Sea Scallops in Brown Butter & Hazelnuts: Coquilles St. Jacques au beurre noisette et aux noisettes

What theme would you choose for creating a meal?  I always liked the idea of using coffee, chocolate, or cherries (or other items which might not start with “c”) in every course for a fun dinner party.

Returning on the Saturday morning ferry from Vancouver, I had been “off-island”, as they say here, for about 11 days.  I had not expected to see the Fishery Afloat.  This seafood boat docks right near the ferry terminal on Saturdays from late May through September.  The Fishery Afloat is based on the much bigger, Salt Spring Island, and it features – almost exclusively – local seafood from the Pacific.  After a long and difficult trip, I was happy to see the boat for the first time, buy some halibut, and discover they had the large Qualicum Beach sea scallops (many of which are larger than a golf ball).  They are quite a treat.

So our proximity to Qualicum Beach, across the Strait along Vancouver Island, made me think of creating a sort of 100-mile-diet dish.  Having made scallops in butter with hazelnut, I thought it would be good to add the twist of brown butter.  The title I gave the dish is is also a bit of a play-on-words or jeux de mots, in French, “Coquilles St. Jacques au beurre noisette et aux noisettes.”  Just to clear up confusion wrought by a Canadian celebrity chef, who once stated incorrectly that brown butter originally was related to hazelnuts as an ingredient in making the butter.  It decidedly is not.  The colour is nut-brown and the flavour may be nutty, but beurre noisette has nothing to do with hazelnuts per se.  Just in case you were wondering….

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