When August rolls around, I’m always scrambling to make the most of the last few weeks of summer before ‘back to school’ mode kicks in. This month has been ladden with road trips to Saskatoon, Kelowna and Edmonton and I’m about to take off to Vancouver for a few days as of tomorrow.
While I do have a parrot, I do not have any children, nor do I attend university, but I do run the cooking program Start From Scratch, so that’s how the ‘back to school’ feeling creeps into my life.
If you haven’t heard of the program before, Start From Scratch is a free 10 week cooking course for post secondary students in Calgary (MRU, U of C or SAIT) and Saskatoon (U of S). We take 30 participants in Calgary each semester and 15 in Saskatoon.(Start From Scratch alumni getting ready for service in the kitchen with Chefs Paul McGreevy and Dilan Draper.)
Now in our fourth year, the program is still a ton of fun. Just this week, we had a pop-up dinner in collaboration with Test Kitchen YYC where we brought some of our awesome alumni participants into the restaurant space to help cook and serve a coursed dinner to a full dining room. Was it scary? Of course! But, we pulled it off!
Now that summer is at its peak, you’ll be hard-pressed to walk past a community garden or glance into someone’s backyard (not in a creepy way!) and not see this vegetable growing strong and tall. While the hearty green leaves are great in a variety of ways – steaming, sautéing, left raw and thinly sliced – the stems can throw people for a loop.
I spent the August long weekend in Kelowna with some friends. In exchange for a comfy bed to sleep in, my friend Kerry Bennett and I, cooked our awesome hosts a big dinner on the Friday night. We served up a big platter of barbecued chicken, which I topped off with this fresh-tasting ‘salsa’.
When chard stems are sliced thin they give a nice crunch and add a brightness, not to mention some nice colour if you are lucky enough to have a handful of the rainbow variety. Anyway, enough from me! Try whipping this up some time this week!
I’m not going to lie. I took this picture with my cellphone – blasphemous, I know. Sometimes, you just cook things for the sake of enjoying a meal with your friends and leave your DSLR on the sidelines. I occasionally have to remind myself that there is nothing wrong with that. Just breath, Dan. Just breath.
Anyway, back to the salad! Grilling romaine gives it a more robust taste and makes for a perfect summer dish. I think we can all agree that no matter how much we all love kale. It is definitely overused in the standard salad these days, so let’s give the green, curly guy a break this week, shall we?
Well, it finally feels like summer is here. I mean, that’s what three whole days in a row without rain has got to mean, right? When it’s sunny outside, everyone likes a chill dessert – with a little bit of booze in it too. So, time to make some granita that’s a nice, vibrant red for Canada Day. How patriotic!
I’ve had The Kenwood Cooking Chef now for about two months and am still enamoured with the cooking abilities of this superhero mixer. Last time I wrote about it, I had it cook me up some caramelized onions and since then, have used it for a variety of berry compotes, curds simple syrups and more. Since it uses induction to heat the base of the mixing bowl, I find it gets the job done quickly with whatever I’m tossing in there.
Risotto is my go-to dinner on a fairly regular basis. It’s the kind of dish that you can make for 2, or 4, or even 8 people (pan size permitting) without a lot of stress. I’m also kind of a strange guy and like to eat cold food as midnight snacks and I think risotto is particularly tasty fresh out of the fridge in the middle of the night. Hey, don’t knock it until you try it…
This dinner definitely falls under the category of ‘Hm, what can I make with these leftover ingredients in my fridge’. Since my love for kale seems to be undying this year, I happily tossed some into this dinner as well. Barley is a great substitute for arborio rice when it comes to risotto. Especially if risotto intimidates you, I find barley to be way more forgiving. This was the first time I had ever tried to put mascarpone cheese into the rice dish as well. It added a rich, creaminess that was pretty fantastic.
Summer has me craving salad like a mad man. Fresh ingredients from the market, or – better yet – your garden are always screaming to be left raw, sliced up and eaten. Or, maybe they’re screaming because they’re being sliced up…Who knows! Anyway, I made this salad a few weeks ago for my audition for MasterChef Canada. It is with a heavy heart – ok, not so heavy – that I inform you with the news that I did not move on into the top 50 finalists for the show. But, at least you can try the dish that I whipped up for the MasterChef Canada tasting round!
This is my version of summer on a plate, since nothing says ‘Oh my god summer is almost over!’ like a mish-mash of bright colours, right? On a more serious note, it’s salty-sweet vinaigrette would even make a great topped for grilled meats if you’re going to have the barbecue going this weekend!
If this looks a little too fancy to you, that’s alright, don’t get intimidated. Feel free to just toss everything together in a big bowl to make a hot mess of deliciousness. It will taste the same, albeit slightly less sexy than pictured above. Rest assured, it will be tasty either way.
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- Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home
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