Date Night!

What a fun night! Every so often I get to teach cooking classes at the Compleat Cook. Friday night’s class was a hand’s on Date Night focusing on Spanish Cuisine with a 7 course tasting menu. The three recipes I’m showcasing here were three of the dishes that I have been wanting to try for a while and happy to see people enjoy. I also have to give a shout out to my assistant for the night, John Leung, who was one of four people representing Calgary in Master Chef Canada.

The first, Scallop Ceviche with a Mango Gastrique, lots of textures and a nice balance between tart & sweetness. I was able to find some delicious, wild caught Scallops from New England. A fantastic Scallop found at Orca Bay Fish Co. in the Kingsland Farmer’s Market in Calgary. The recipe here calls for julienned Roma tomatoes. While doing the shopping for the class at the farmer’s market, I was able to find this little tiger striped organic tomato that tasted great and had a cool look to it.

The Honey Dew Soup with Grapefruit & Prosciutto was a 2 source inspiration from Spain. While ideally, I would have preferred to make this dish with Jamon Iberico, a fantastic product made from black Iberian pigs, but was unable to find some for this class. Prosciutto is definitely a great product in its own right and a fantastic pairing with honeydew. While I was in Madrid, I visited a restaurant called Museo Del Jamon, the ham museum where the starter course I had there was a slice of honeydew draped with thinly sliced Jamon Iberico. It was very simple & rustic but a great, classic flavor pairing. The next source of inspiration came from a Ferran Adria cookbook called La Comida de la Familia, the family cookbook in which they detail the family meals had at El Bulli with the entire team before their dinner service. Many great recipes collected in this book, one of which was a honeydew soup with grapefruit segments. I didn’t go too far away from the recipe because the recipe is simple and great because of it. The only changes I added to this were the Prosciutto and the Balsamic reduction because these are flavors that are very natural together. The one piece of instruction I will add here that is not in the recipe directions is to squeeze the juice from the grapefruit as you segment them, and incorporate them with the honeydew juice.

At the Museo Del Jamon!

The third recipe here, Variations of Red, was our final dish from the night & was another idea I got from a dish made at El Bulli. The idea of the ingredients came from their dish, in which they used a freeze drying process for their fruits & a light strawberry foam. To simplify the recipe, I marinade the fruit in a balsamic syrup and sub the strawberry foam with a strawberry & vanilla bean whipped cream. This was a nice, simple & light dessert that to me is a great finish to a date night dinner.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the cooking classes hosted by the Compleat Cook please visit their website. I have a few more classes coming up soon, Cooking 101, Small Bites, Chocolate & Saucery! There is also a great lineup of Calgary Chef’s being featured until the end of June, including my friend Andrew Trinier who was one of the best Chef’s I have worked with so far in my career. Please contact Margaret for more info!

Scallop Ceviche
For the marination:
Digby scallops, cut into three equal medallions
Lime juice
Lemon juice
Orange juice
Fennel, julienned
Extra virgin olive oil
pinch Kosher salt
1. In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients.
2. Marinade for 30 minutes.
3. Drain scallops, reserve liquid & fennel separately.
4. Pat the scallops dry, cover and place in the fridge until ready to use.
For the garnishes:
Roma tomatoes, julienned
Avocado slices
Julienned fennel
Radish, thinly sliced medallions (held in ice cold water)
Blood orange segments
Mango gastrique (recipe follows)
Micro-greens, freshly cut
to finish Malden salt
to finish Freshly cracked black pepper
For the mango gastrique:
Marinating liquid
Granulated sugar
Rice vinegar
Ripe mango, diced
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1. Add marinating liquid to a pot & bring to the boil.
2. Add remaining ingredients & bring to the boil.
3. Reduce liquid by half.
4. Blitz to a smooth consistency with a blender.
5. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Honeydew Soup w/Grapefruit Segments & Prosciutto
1 Honeydew, peeled, cored & cut into small squares
small bunch Mint
100ml Water
Pinch granulated sugar
1 Grapefruit, peeled, segments
100g Prosiutto
Drizzle Balsamic reduction
1. Place honeydew & mint in a blender & blitz until smooth.
2. Pass through a strainer to smooth out consistency.
3. Wrap grapefruit segments with prosciutto & arrange in a bowl.
4. Pour strained soup over the segments, only enough to cover approximately half way.
5. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.
Variations of Red
For the Balsamic Syrup:
1 cup Granulated sugar
1 cup Water
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
1. In a medium sized pot, bring the granulated sugar & water to a boil.
2. Continue boiling until sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Add the balsamic vinegar. Check for a balance between sweet & sour and adjust to taste.
4. Place syrup in the fridge to cool down.
To marinade:
1/2 lb Watermelon, small cubes
1/2 lb Strawberries, quartered
1/2 lb Raspberries, whole
1/2 lb Figs, halved
2.5 cups Balsamic syrup
1. Place all the fruit in a glass bowl and cover with the syrup.
2. Marinade in the fridge for approximately 1/2 hour to 1 hour.
For the Strawberry & vanilla whipped cream:
1/4 cup Strawberries, juiced
3 pods Fresh vanilla
1 tsp Sugar
1 cup Heavy cream

If you have any questions or comments about any of the recipes presented here, please feel free to drop me a line or comment!



Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad w/Pork Belly croutons

While visiting Vancouver last summer, my girlfriend and I had the chance to eat at a great restaurant called The Flying Pig in Gastown. Hot summer day, patio seats, wine, beer & lots of great food. Gratin brussels sprouts & Caesar salad with pork belly croutons were the two dishes that stood out the most to us and has lead me into this recipe here.

The key to this recipe is to braise the pork belly the day before and allowing it to cool in the braising liquid overnight. Also, be careful when pan frying. This is a fatty piece and will crackle, spraying oil everywhere, so if possible, use a cover if you have one. The result is worth it.

Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad w/Pork Belly Croutons
For the pork belly croutons: set oven to 350f
1.2 lbs Pork belly, halved
1/2 White onion, large dice
3 Celery stalks, large dice
4 Garlic cloves
1 bunch Fresh thyme sprigs
1 tbsp Dried oregano
1.5 cup Chicken stock
1 cup Pineapple juice
1. Cover braising pan with tin foil. Place in the oven and braise until pork belly is tender.
Approx. 2.5 – 3 hrs.
2. Allow to cool down before placing in the oven overnight.
3. The next day, remove the pork belly from the braising liquid. Remove any fat that accumulates
on top of the braising liquid. Strain out remaining ingredients and reserve the braising liquid
for use in cooking the brussel sprouts.
4. Cut the pork belly into large crouton sized pieces.
5. Using a little bit of vegetable oil, pan fry the pork belly pieces until completely browned on all
6. Remove croutons from the pan and place in a bowl, toss with salt & pepper and place on a
plate lined with paper towel to soak up extra grease.
For the brussels sprouts: set broiler to 385f
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed and halved
1 cup Apple juice
1 cup Pork belly braising liquid
pinch Kosher salt
light drizzle Extra virgin olive oil
1. Place brussels sprouts in a pan & cover with apple juice and braising liquid.
2. Bring to a gentle simmer, and cook until brussel sprouts are beginning to get soft.
3. Remove sprouts from liquid, place in a bowl & toss with kosher salt & olive oil.
4. Place sprouts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place in the oven & cook for
approx. 8 – 10 minutes, until sprouts are beginning to brown.
For the avocado caesar dressing:
A 1 Egg yolk
1 tbsp Grainy dijon
1 tbsp Anchovy, minced
1 small Avocado
50 ml White balsamic vinegar
B 150 ml Grapeseed oil
C splash Worcestershire shire
splash Tabasco sauce
to taste Kosher salt
to taste Cracked black pepper
1. Place all A ingredients and food processor and blitz to form a smooth, paste like consistency.
2. While blitzing, pour in grapeseed oil in a slow steady stream until dressing emulsifies and
flavors become balance.
4. Adjust seasoning with all C ingredients.

Braised Pork Belly w/Porcini Mushrooms & Agrodolce Sauce

I love pork. Anyone who knows me has probably heard me talk about my addiction once or twice, so to be working with pork belly got me excited enough to prepare it two different ways. With recipe 1 here, I wanted to do two things. The first was to use one of my favorite flavor profiles, agridulce, sweet & sour, to highlight the versatility that pork provides. The second was to use one of my favorite cooking methods in braising. This method to me is a fantastic way to develop rich flavors using cheaper cuts of meat. It’s rustic & simple.

Agrodolce is a traditional Italian sweet & sour sauce, similar to a gastrique, with additional flavourings added. In this recipe, I wanted to use a similar method with some Spanish notes. Sherry wine, sweet smoked paprika & garlic. The porcini mushrooms provide a nice earthiness to this dish.

If you’re unfamiliar to braising, here are some basic procedures. Brown your protein to caramelize and develop flavors, also known as the Maillard Reaction. Remove proteins from your pot or pan and sweat off your vegetables or mirepoix. Deglaze with a wine or in this case, a combination of wine and vinegar. Add your desired stock and other liquids. Return the proteins to the liquid, cover and cook in the oven. Cooking times will vary depending on the type of protein used, the size of the cut and the temperature. When looking at any recipe with a braising process and times indicated, always remember that those times are basic guidelines and you should always interpret them as such. Cook your proteins as long as they need to become tender.

Braised Pork Belly w/Porcini Mushrooms & Agridulce Sauce
For the braise:
1.06lbs Pork belly, cut into large squares
4 tbsp Vegetable oil
2 tbsp Butter
half White onion, large dice
4 Celery stalks, large dice
.9 oz Dried porcini mushrooms
5 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp Sweet paprika
1/2 cup Sherry wine
1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Pineapple juice
1 tbsp Brown sugar
2 cups Chicken stock
1 bunch Fresh thyme sprigs
4 Bay leaves
2 tbsp Capers, chopped
Directions: (set oven @ 350f)
1. Using medium heat, sear & brown all sides of the pork belly pieces. Remove pieces from the pan
once completely browned and set aside.
2. Some fat will render out from the pork belly, but depending on the piece you get, you might need
the little bit of extra fat to cook the veg. If so, use the bit of extra butter.
3. Add the onions and caramelize. Medium low heat, and take the time to develop the color and
flavor of the onions.
4. Add the celery and sweat until it becomes soft.
5. Add the dried porcini mushrooms, garlic & sweat out for approx. 2 minutes.
6. Add sweet paprika and blend the spice well the veggies.
7. Deglaze pan with Sherry wine, red wine vinegar & pineapple juice.
8. Add the brown sugar, and bring liquid to a boil. S
9. Add the chicken stock, and again, bring liquid to a boil.
10. Return the pork belly pieces into the braising liquid, add thyme sprigs & bay leaves.
11. Cover pan and place in the oven, braise for approx. 2.5 hours, or as long as it takes for pork
belly to become tender.
12. Remove pork belly pieces & porcini mushrooms from the braising liquid, strain out veg.
13. Place braising liquid into a pot, set heat to medium high and bring to the boil.
14. Reduce braising liquid by 1/3, or until it becomes thick enough to cover the back of a spoon.
15. Serve pork belly pieces on their own with pieces of the porcini mushrooms & drizzle with sauce
as a tapa dish.

And for the end result!

With recipe 2, which I will only mention quickly here and post within the next couple of days, I will be preparing a Brussel Sprout Caesar Salad with Pork Belly Croutons. For the time being, I hope you enjoy this one.


Skuna Bay Salmon Tartare Lettuce Wraps

I have wanted to work with this salmon for some time now. A sashimi grade, ocean raised salmon from Skuna Bay in Vancouver Island. While it was my idea to pick up the salmon and my execution, this dish is my girlfriend’s brainchild. With limited ingredient options and her free flowing ideas, we came up with these awesome little lettuce wraps.

Just a little bit about why I have wanted to work with this particular salmon. A while back I watched a Tedtalk by Dan Barber called “How I fell in love with a fish”. Needless to say I found this topic inspiring because we rarely think about the food we are eating and even less about what is being fed to the animals we consume. It is crazy to think that a lot of farmed fish are being fed sustainable proteins, which is a combination of corn, algae, fishmeal & chicken pellets. Of course, each fish farm uses their own combination of fish feed. In this talk, Dan Barber talks about a farm in Spain that uses revolutionary fish farming methods. Ocean water farming with fish that feed on natural aqua culture. It’s such a simple concept but one that is rarely utilized or appreciated.

Ever since watching this I have been searching for a place in Canada that utilizes similar methods. Now, while the farm that Dan describes in his talk is perhaps difficult to duplicate due to ecological and geographical conditions, at Skuna Bay they are applying a similar ideology. Ocean raised salmon that feeds in its natural habitat, taking 3-4 years to harvest and carefully selected and inspected at the time of ordering. That kind of care is rare to find & I can assure that as a consumer, there is a very noticeable difference to the more commonly farmed fish. The Skuna Bay salmon is buttery, tender, mild, meaty & most importantly, fresh. If where ever you are, you can find a similar product; I highly recommend that you indulge. Apart from the obvious benefits of eating fish that is raised and fed naturally, the taste & mouth feel is simply incomparable to the other option.

Skuna Bay Salmon Tartare Lettuce Wraps
2lbs Salmon filet, skinned, small diced
1tbsp Shallots, brunoise
1tbsp Cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup Hemp hearts
1.5 tbsp Sesame oil
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 tsp Fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Mint sauce
1 tbsp Horseradish
to taste Kosher salt
to taste Ground black pepper
1 head Butterleaf lettuce, leaves trimmed & washed
1. Carefully skin the salmon & cut into a small dice.
2. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
3. Adjust seasoning to taste.
*Notes: Both the horseradish & mint sauce used in this recipe have an acidic profile.
The measurements used are merely a suggestion. Keeping in mind that the flavour
of the salmon is meant to be highlighted, only use enough to help balance the
overall taste without over powering the end result.
If unsure, take a small amount of the salmon tartare mix without both of these ingredients
and place in a separate bowl. Add a small amount of each of these ingredients to see what is preferable to your own palate.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If the type of salmon described here is not available to you, you can definitely try this with any high quality salmon you can get your hands on.

Mushroom Risotto

Part of the reason I wanted to start collecting recipes on a blog was to have a place to direct my family & friends when they ask for recipes for dishes I’ve prepared for them. Example, my older sister is constantly asking for my mushroom risotto recipe. I’ve prepared the dish for my family many times, never actually documenting the recipe. Gone through many variations but this combo here has been one of my favorite results. The dried porcini mushrooms provide a great intense flavor, and the combination of the Portobello, Crimini & the Oyster mushrooms give this dish a nice variation of texture and flavor.

Making risotto isn’t as complicated as a lot might think. Basic principles to keep in mind are to keep the stock warm, and to add the stock in small increments until the rice gets an al dente consistency. Keep your heat low and only stir occasionally to ensure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Mushroom Risotto
1/4 cup Butter
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup Shallots, brunoise
1/2 cup White wine
1/4 cup Dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp Freshly chopped thyme
2.5 cups Chicken stock, warm
1/2 cup Crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup Oyster mushrooms, sliced
to taste Kosher salt
to taste Black pepper
to taste Italian parsley, chiffonade
to taste Manchego cheese, shaved
1. In a small pot, heat up the chicken stock to gentle
2. In a deep skillet, heat up the butter in medium low heat.
3. Add the arborio rice and cook on low heat.
4. Stir, and being careful not to brown the rice, cook
until grains begin to get a little translucent.
5. Add the shallots and cook until they begin to get soft.
6. Deglaze the skillet with the white wine.
7. Add the dried porcini mushrooms and the chopped thyme.
8. In small increments, begin to add the chicken stock.
Enough to cover the rice, stir occassionally.
9. Add the remaining mushrooms.
10. Continue addding the stock in small increments until the
rice is al dente.
11. Adjust seasoning.
12. Finish with the manchego cheese, shaved by using a
peeler, and the chiffonade of Italian parsley.

Please feel free to comment on the recipes and to share your own variations. One recipe that I am working on and will be posting soon as part of my tapas series will be a chorizo & prawn risotto. Enjoy!!!