Sunday, October 24, 2010

Getting Baked

Ghoulish Goodies from the Baker's Market

The Vancouver Baker's Market is now on and I'm so glad I made it there relatively early in the season.  After getting my first taste of its offerings, I'm already planning many trips back.  Situated inside a warehouse in an obscure part of East Vancouver, it takes a bit of effort to locate, but once there you find a welcoming space with clean white walls that make the perfect backdrop to the multitude of colours on display.  The space is not huge but well-stocked with tables practically poking out the door.  There is a good selection of vendors selling a wide variety of goodies, but not so many that it feels overwhelming at all.  The set-up encourages you to stroll slowly by each table, chat with the bakers and of course, sample.  I found it almost impossible not to buy everything I tasted.  Because there is a variety of sweet and savoury treats, it's easy to get something for your meal and dessert.  I ended up buying a multigrain Epi loaf, numerous kinds of cookies, marshmallows, macarons, and macarons filled with marshmallow!  

One of my favourite tables was Joyful Confections, which featured cupcakes and decorated sugar cookies.  They had pretty packaging, and I just loved their Halloween themed cookies.  Along with ghost and skull cookies, they also had creepy headstones, and candy corn designs.  They looked very professional, and their cookies were perfectly sweet.  

My other favourite table belonged to Buttercup Cake Design.  Unfortunately, save but one, all of the goodies from that table were eaten too fast to photograph.  But the Peanut Butter Marshmallow lollipop is not only visually awesome, but tastes amazing, and the Fleur de Sel Butter Caramel Macarons are crumble in your mouth gooey sweetness, with the perfect touch of saltiness.  Serious magic in your mouth.  

The Baker's Market is aptly titled "The Sweetest Event in Vancouver", because that it truly is.  I hope you get there soon to fill your belly with goodness, and to support your local baker.  This season's market goes until December 11th and is every Saturday from 11am to 3pm, with free admission.

Visit the websites below for how to get there and for more info:  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Something Fishy

Chinese-Style Steamed Fish

I can often be heard heralding the praises of my mother's cooking.  It's hard not to.  I've had the extreme fortune of being fed restaurant-worthy dishes filled with what is known to be the main ingredient of all great food:  love.  My mom is a self-taught cook, her skills being fueled and honed by a keen sense of taste, observation and of course, passion. There are no recipes, only instinct. There have been many occasions when I've said to myself that I must start recording her recipes.  Between ambitious ideas of videotaping her in action (cooking show-style) and creating a cookbook, making it happen just hasn't happened.  But I have come to realize that some kind of recording is happening in the form of osmosis.  For all the years of helping out and being around the incredible aromas of her kitchen, her recipes have become a part of me.

I first came to this realization a number of years back while living in a small town in Quebec. It was a desperate situation - no authentic Asian food!  Instead of settling for sad substitutions, I opted to try making a dish that was simple enough to replicate, but could still conjure up feelings of home:  Chinese-Style Steamed Fish.  With a sense of disbelief, my attempt tasted a lot like mum's.  Now, having recreated a number of my mother's recipes, I can certainly give credit to osmosis, but perhaps I've had the genuine luck of inheriting some of her instinct, too.

My version of my mom's Chinese-Style Steamed Fish:
(For this recipe, you may have to tap into your own instincts, as I eyeball all measurements.  Just like mom!)

You will need:  Halibut (wild-caught Pacific Halibut is the most sustainable choice), oil, ginger, garlic (optional), green onions, cilantro and soy sauce.    

Finely slice the ginger/garlic and put into a small saucepan.  Pour just enough oil to cover, and gently fry over medium-low heat until golden brown.

Put the fish in a ceramic or stainless steel dish and place whole strips of green onion on top. (You can also julienne the green onions and place on top of the fish after it's steamed, and before you pour on the oil.)

Steam the fish until opaque and flaky in the middle. (Use a fork to twist the centre of the fish.  If it separates along the grain, it's done. The general rule is to cook for 10 minutes per inch of fish.)

Pour out all the liquid from the steamed fish. Generously spread fresh cilantro on top. Drizzle the hot ginger/garlic oil over the fish, and then immediately dash on the soy sauce, according to taste.   You should hear it sizzle.

Best eaten with steamed rice, and if possible, with your mom at your side :o)