Sunchoke Soup

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I finally got my hands on some sunchokes, a.k.a Jerusalem artichokes, the other week (from Local Source Market) and experimented with a few dishes. The best use of the ingredient, I found, was to make a creamy puree soup; this really showcased the sunchoke’s rich, unique flavour.

It is a strange ingredient, I’ll admit. It looks kind of like ginger, but dark brown. It’s knobby and awkward to peel, but underneath the rough brown skin there is a bright pale flesh with a consistency somewhere between raw potato and a water chestnut.

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The process was pretty simple: first I sweated some onions, and garlic, in olive oil and a bit of butter. Once they were fragrant and had a bit of colour, I added my sliced sunchokes, and some small pieces of local golden beets that I had in the fridge. I seasoned them and let them sauté just for a moment before I covered everything in water and white wine to simmer for a while.

In retrospect I should have just roasted the beets in advance because they took quite a while longer to soften up from the simmering than the sunchokes did.

Somewhere along the way I added some freshly chopped basil, another splash of wine, more salt and pepper, and some lemon juice. Once everything was soft enough I used an immersion blender and blended everything in the pot until smooth.

I let the soup mellow a while in the fridge and flavours really came together. Before serving I reheated on the stove, mixed in a tiny bit of heavy cream, sprinkled on some toasted pine nuts and topped with a Parmesan crostini.

Sunchokes have a great flavour… they are rich, creamy, garlicky and substantial. Definitely pick some up while they’re in season; they are versatile and delicious!

Brown Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

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Today is apparently Pi Day, which the foodies have turned into a day to post photos of pie-related dishes. Most memorable (so far) is this awesome creation by Ratinaud.

Lucky for me, I was already planning on blogging about my most recent dish, brown lentil shepherd’s pie. So what better day to post?

I love making a dish that’s a meatless concept where you’re replacing the meat with something else, but the look of the dish is virtually the same, and the way you incorporate this other ingredient works so well that it’s a whole new thing entirely on its own. Know what I mean? Probably not, unless you’re a mostly-vegetarian eater like me.

Brown lentil shepherd’s pie is DELICIOUS. I’m not going to say “it tastes just like regular shepherd’s pie,” because that would be a lie. It tastes like lentil shepherd’s pie. And when you use the right vegetables, herbs and seasoning, you can get a fantastic texture and flavour. So much that you would look forward to eating lentil shepherd’s pie, and wouldn’t even think about the “regular” version, or to compare the two.

IMG_7937Part of the deliciousness of my recipe was the mash. I oven roasted local fingerling potatoes and parsnips, kept the skins on, and added a splash of milk, along with Ran-Cher Acres chives goat cheese, and a bit of homemade roasted garlic oil.

For the lentil layer, I started with dried brown lentils, and cooked them like the package directions told me to. I haven’t cooked with lentils much. This worked.

Then I sautéed garlic, onions, and Brussels’ sprouts. When those are looking good, you add some tomato (canned works), corn, peas, veggie stock, and throw the lentils back in to simmer.

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You could use different herbs here (rosemary would be nice), but I only had some basil, so that’s what went in. I also squeezed in a generous portion of Sriracha, because I knew we’d love a little zing to our lentil shepherd’s pie. I was right.

Once this is reduced and thickened, seasoned to your taste, and the flavours have melded, you just spoon it into a baking dish, top with the mash, drizzle a little olive oil and bake it for 20-30 minutes, around 375, until the top is starting to turn golden brown.

IMG_7972Yum. The the best decision I made with this dish was to use the Brussels’ sprouts, as they added a needed crunchy-firm aspect. The dish had a little heat, too, just the right amount. We both had seconds.

One cool thing… if I hadn’t added the goat cheese and milk into the mash (you could sub out for almond or rice milk), this dish would have been vegan. And still hearty.

No frills Irish

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Since St. Patrick’s Day weekend is coming up, I thought I’d quickly share my experience at the newest Irish pub in the HRM, Seamus David’s.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a regular visitor to Dartmouth… especially the crossing. I like to shop (and eat) local, and all, so there’s not much of a draw. However, the man wanted to look at some man store that sells car parts, and Dartmouth is good for that, so I thought I’d tag along and try out this new pub, which is both locally-owned, and not a chain.

After reading a couple hilarious Yelp reviews that claimed the staff there are incredibly sexist (in the favour of tables of all men), I really didn’t know what to expect. This was a Friday and when we arrived for lunch it was absolutely jammed. We picked one of the last couple available tables, and settled in.

I immediately was pleased because they not only offered cider, they offered more than just Strongbow. While Strongbow was the only cider on tap, there were two local ciders by the bottle. I chose my favourite cider, Shipbuilder’s.

The service was friendly and decent – albeit a little slow as the pub got busier, and busier.

The menu didn’t stray much from your traditional Irish pub food, and the prices were pretty  good. I think that’s because the food is very simple and (my guess is) not much is made in house.

I ordered fish ‘n’ chips, and after asking if the chips are hand-cut (the answer is no), I opted for sweet potato fries. The tartar sauce was two packets of Kraft, and the coleslaw very much tasted like it was mass-produced. The fish and batter were great.

So, while Seamus David’s isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with the food, I think they’re mission is to provide an Irish pub affordable enough for people who work in Dartmouth to eat there a few times a week. The offering of local beer and cider is admirable. This is definitely a place I’d come back to just to have a few pints, or if I’m in the neighbourhood and craving some fried pub food.

Savour Food & Wine 2013

I keep getting this sneaking suspicion that I missed out on something really good last night at the 10th annual Savour Food & Wine show.

This year, the event was held at the Cunard Centre – which is a great venue. The room is so large and wide open, though, that it felt like I’d never make it to all the booths in only two-and-a-half hours. Hence the nagging feeling that I missed something tasty!

I did manage to sample more than a few really great dishes. The crowd favourite seemed to be (and I agree) the braised short rib on celeriac puree with sweet peas and double-smoked bacon from Saege Bistro. All biases aside, this was a fantastic, melt-in-your-mouth, deeply flavourful dish.

Another decadent and unbelievable taste was the foie gras mousse with caramelized apples from Ratinaud! Well done.

A few other favourites of mine were: the gnudi with beef bolognese and Parmesan cheese from MODA, the Port Pub’s lamb burger, and the truffle aioli that accompanied the steak frites from Bistro le Coq. Yum.

Here is a quick photo tour from the night.

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