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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quinoa, Grilled Asparagus and Mango Salad

I’m currently taking a 2-week course for teachers who want to teach Hospitality in high school.  With the onslaught of zany cooking shows (“Bitchin’ Kitchen” being one of them) and rising number of celebrity chefs with “God-like” status, careers in the culinary field are becoming more and more popular among teens, and schools are cluing in that not everyone graduating from high school are university-bound.  Some will go to college to learn a trade, become an apprentice or find a job, most likely in a restaurant.  Hence, more high schools are offering cooking/hospitality courses to train the next Bobby Flay or Susur Lee as early as possible. 

Last Friday, the course topic was salads and 23 would-be high school cooking teachers were set loose at St. Lawrence and Kensington Markets in search of salad ingredients, each group with a $20-budget.  Now when people think salads, we tend to limit ourselves to lettuces and starch salads, but roaming around St. Lawrence Market is enough to inspire anyone to make salads out of anything: dozens of varieties of grains, exotic fruits, local and imported cheeses, fresh seafood and so on.

Back in the kitchen, an hour of preparation led to a beautiful spread of an array of salads including Orange and Bocconcini with Balsamic  Vinaigrette, Potato and Egg, Greek Salad to name a few.  Here’s the recipe for the Quinoa, Mango and Grilled Asparagus Salad which our group made.   I’ve featured quinoa in another dish from a previous post.  It’s becoming my favourite grain.  Rube’s on the lower level of St. Lawrence Market sells a variety of this ancient South American grain. 

Quinoa, Mango and Grilled Asparagus Salad


1½ cups                quinoa
1                            mango (diced)
1 bunch                asparagus (washed, ends cut off)
¼ cup                    sunflower seed (or pumpkin seed)
1 bunch                Thai basil leaves (cut into strips, chiffonade)


8 cloves                roasted garlic (minced)
3 Tbsp                  curry paste
1/8  cup               apple cider vinegar
 1/4 cup               extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp                  honey
Pinch                    ground cumin (optional)
Pinch                    ground coriander (optional)
Pinch                    salt
Pinch                    pepper

1.       In a medium bowl, rinse quinoa and drain (twice).

2.      Bring salted water to boil.
3.      Add quinoa, lower heat to a simmer and cook quinoa for about 20 min. or until it is tender.

4.      Drain quinoa and run cold water on it.  Drain and set aside.
5.       Grill or pan fry the asparagus in a little bit of olive oil until lightly charred.  Sprinkle salt and let cool.  Cut into ¼ inch slices.  Leave 1 inch spear tips for garnish.

6.      Toast sunflower seeds in a frying pan for about 5 min or until golden brown.  Let cool.

7.      In a large bowl, combine quinoa, mango, asparagus, basil, and toasted pumpkin seeds (save some for garnish).  Mix well.
8.      Make dressing by combining all ingredients.  Add to the salad mixture.  Adjust seasoning.  Mix well and let stand in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving. 

9.      Mix salad again before serving.  Top with asparagus tips and remaining pumpkin seed.

NOTE:  You can basically use any dressing that you wish.  I opted for the exotic taste of curry. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Ultimate Canadian Food

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to be a part of a short summer- entertaining video for the Food Network website.  The theme was Canada Day and I was to come up to with two appetizers fit for the occasion.  The question, “What is Canadian food?” had been presented to me many times before when I travelled abroad and as the case before, I have no definite answer. 

The challenge in identifying Canadian food is that it is regional and evolutionary.  Although everyone knows about maple syrup and peameal bacon (or Canadian bacon as they say in the U.S.), some may have never seen fiddleheads or heard of dulse .  When was the last time you cooked venison or had poutine other than from a fast-food joint?  Ask a new Canadian if he likes tourtière and they might think why anyone would want to undergo pain and suffering. Ask an old Canadian if she wants a shawarma and you might get a slap in the face.

To me, the ultimate Canadian food would be one that any Canadian – new, old, white, black, French, English – knows and has tasted, with a name that no other nation is familiar with.  That amidst a crowd in a foreign land, yelling out this food will attract the attention of fellow Canadians. The Japanese have sushi.  And folks, we have this too.  It’s called the Timbit.  Oooh yeah, dutchie, honey-dip, chocolate.  No matter what the flavour, no other food can put a smile on any Canadian’s face in an instant than this 2-inch ball of sweet, warm pastry (never mind the 70 calories each one packs).  I propose the Timbit as Canada’s national food!

Of course, I didn’t use timbits (which, by the way, turns 35 this year) for the video.  I opted for a bit more gourmet using the colours of Canada and a few Canadian ingredients: Tomato-Bocconcini Canape (with Maple-Citrus Drizzle) and Watermelon Cubes (with Niagara Ice Wine, Benedictine Blue Cheese and Walnuts).    

Visit the link below to watch me make these appetizers.  Happy Canada Day!