Pan Roasted Duck Magret with Ontario Peach and Coriander Cress

Another great recipe from Chris Zielinski from last week’s cooking demo


1 Quebec duck breast (magret from moulard duck)
Sea salt
Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 ripe peaches
Coriander seedlings

aug 29 market-ultra demo 043I [Chris] like to serve this recipe over an arugula salad with candied walnuts in summer or root vegetable barley in the fall. A nice accompanying sauce can be made by pouring off excess fat after cooking the duck and deglazing the pan with fig balsamic vinegar and add a couple dabs of cold butter to thicken before pouring over the duck.

To prepare the duck, turn breast over and remove duck filet. Gently remove small piece of silver skin with boning knife. (This step is no necessary but it does keep the breast from curling up when cooking.) Turn back over and lightly score skin to allow fat to render more quickly. Heat a thick bottomed or cast iron pan. Season duck breast with salt and pepper on all sides. Place breast skin side down in pan and cook over low heat to evenly brown and crisp skin while allowing fat to render off. You made need to pour the fat out of the pans a couple of times during cooking. After about 8- 10 minutes, skin should be thin and crisp. Turn over and cook for about 5 more minutes on very low heat. Remove from heat and allow to rest 7 minutes before cutting. Slice peaches in the mean time. Slice duck as thinly as possible. Layer slices of duck with peaches. Top with coriander seedlings and extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 2 as a main course, 3 as an appetizer

Chris Zielinski’s Lake Erie Pickerel with Ontario Peach Salsa

Here’s the recipe from last week’s cooking demo


6 boneless Lake Erie Pickerel filets
1 tbsp butter
1tbsp olive oil

3 ripe Ontario peaches
1 heirloom or vine ripe tomato
2 jalapeno peppers
½ tsp ginger
1 clove garlic
12 thai basil leaves
12 mint leaves
2 sliced scallions
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
Pinch sugar
Salt to taste

03.salsa.263Dice peaches and tomatoes approximately ½ cm dice. Cut jalapeno peppers in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and stem. Fine dice jalapeno. Chop ginger and garlic fine. Coarsely chop Thai basil, scallions and mint. Place all chopped ingredients in bowl and gently mix. Mix all remaining ingredients in a separate bowl to create dressing. Pour over chopped mixture and season with salt if necessary. Salsa will taste better if it sits for at least 15 minutes before using. Salsa tastes better if it is made the same day as it’s being used.

Preheat a frying pan over medium heat. Add oil and butter. Season pickerel with salt and place flesh down in hot oil. Cook on one side for 3 minutes until light brown in color. Flip over and lower heat to crisp up skin and continue cooking until cooked through. Serve immediately topped with salsa.

Serves 6

Dinner at Blowfish

Considering that I live a 7 minute walk away, it’s amazing that I’ve never been to Blowfish restaurant and sake bar. Never until last night, that is, when my neighbour Irene invited me out for birthday drinks and appetizers (I love my birthday week: with a lot of foodie friends, I eat very well this time of year).

We went fairly early, a bit after 6pm, so it wasn’t busy at all and the service was very attentive. Also, it was a Tuesday night, probably not their busiest night. I think that they changed our plates 3 times during the meal, and even came over and lowered the window blinds when the setting sun had Irene full in the eyes.

Before ordering, we decided on cocktails. I had a “chilli berries” saketini, made with sake, vodka, cassis, Thai chili, fresh mixed berries, lime juice and simple syrup to sweeten it slightly. Delicious, not too sweet, and with a bit of the chili heat as a finish. Irene opted for the “chilly breeze”, which was tequila, X-rated liqueur, sage, Thai chili, vanilla bean, lemongrass, thyme, black peppercorn, watermelon and lime juice. The tequila taste predominated, although nice complexity in the mix of fruit and spices until Irene accidentally bit into a black peppercorn, thinking it was a berry.

The food was, not to put too fine a point on it, great. Here’s what we had:

  • We each had a Blowfish giant ebi shooter, which is a hand roll stuffed with an enormous (cooked) tiger prawn, mango, avocado, cucumber, lettuce, daikon sprout, tempura bits, spicy kewpie (Japanese mayonnaise) and tobiko (flying fish roe). Interestingly, the wrap was a very light and edible soy paper instead of nori (seaweed), each in different colours, that tasted very slightly sweet but did not detract from the filling. The best part is that it was served propped in what could only be described as an oversized shooter glass, which I assume is where the name came from. I will go back to Blowfish just for a drink and one of these in the future.
  • We shared an order of steamed lobster dumplings, which looked just like the har gow that you would have at dim sum, but stuffed with lobster. Each one was nestled in a little pool of spicy tobanjan sauce, seated in a Chinese soup spoon. The server was thoughtful enough to ask, when we ordered, if we wanted an extra dumpling: the standard serving is three dumplings, and we agreed to the fourth so that we didn’t have to fight over the last one. Perfectly steamed and a nice complement of flavours, although it was easy to scoop up too much of the spicy sauce and overpower the lobster.
  • We shared a spicy tuna roll, filled with (raw) tuna, negi (green onion), and spicy kewpie; this was done in a classic roll style with nori and sushi rice, rolled with the rice side out, then rolled in tempura bits. Six pieces to share, and very tasty. I like their use of tempura bits as a garnish: this showed up in the shooter hand roll as well, and gives a nice crunch.
  • For our last shared plate, we had roasted miso-marinated black cod, a very generous portion of two pieces, served with asparagus spears. The flavour of the fish was amazing, the cod definitely coming through the complexity of the miso marinade. It was also incredibly rich, and I don’t think that I could have eaten the whole plate on my own.

We accompanied all of this with a Lillypilly Sauvignon Blanc; the acidity was a good complement to the richness of the dishes.

To finish, I indulged in the ginger creme brulee, and we both had the Lillypilly Noble Blend dessert wine, a botrytis-affected blend that approaches an ice wine in sweetness but with a fresh acidity and some complex fruit character.

For something that was originally proposed as “drinks and appetizers”, it turned into quite a splendid pre-birthday dinner.

Chicken Farmers host a Toronto food blogger meetup

I knew that I would like the people behind the Chicken Farmers of Canada social media the minute that I saw their Twitter bio:

Chicken Farmers of Canada Twitter identity

And how can you not like a group that organizes a free Toronto Food Bloggers Meetup with an interesting panel of speakers at Edward Levesque’s Kitchen, complete with tasty chicken appetizers and free-flowing wine?

The topic of the evening was the decline of home cooking: hosted by Theresa Albert, nutritionist and cookbook author, and including Anna Withrow, food writer and founder of the LIVERight awards,  Amanda Laird, food blogger, and Ryan Anderson, Web strategist and PR blogger. Theresa started by passing around a copy of the recent NYT article by Michael Pollan (author of several books including The Omnivore’s Dilemma), “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch”, contrasting the rise of food-related TV shows that fetishize cooking with the decline of anyone actually doing it. His article points out that the average American spends 27 minutes per day on food preparation, which is less than half the time required to watch one episode of most of the hugely popular shows on the Food Network; what’s wrong with this picture? Even the word “cooking” these days can mean opening a few cans and heating something in the microwave, rather than actual cooking from scratch: food researcher Henry Balzer said that washing a head of lettuce and pouring bottled dressing over it is considered cooking by most Americans (and probably Canadians) these days. Food TV has jump-started interest in food and cooking, but also created has fearfulness about the complexity: if someone can’t even figure out what the ingredients are or where to buy them, it stifles any adventurous nature that they might have had. And how do movies like “Julie and Julia” impact our popular culture around food? Cooking has shifted from being a matter of survival to an art form.

This shift to more prepared and processed foods has a health impact, too: typically, you’ll find more bad stuff such as fat, salt and weird chemicals in processed foods, and less good stuff such as fiber and vitamins. A few years ago, Damir and I switched to a mostly macrobiotic diet – which eschews processed foods – for several months, and I never felt so good: I lost some weight (which was not my primary goal) and had a lot more energy. Some of those eating habits stayed with us, resulting in almost no processed foods at home, lots of whole grains and raw vegetables, and semi-vegetarian eating habits; today for lunch, for example, we had brown rice with toasted sesame seeds and raw sunflower shoots, which was delicious. People on non-standard diets, whether macrobiotic, vegetarian or vegan, tend to cook more and eat better, although there always exceptions, like one vegetarian I know who lives on take-out cheese pizza.

Getting back to last night’s panel, Theresa opened with some words about food as the “center of our universe”, related to both health and culture. She realizes that what she shows to an audience is limited as a Food Network chef; as she put it, “I stand up there and chop shit…the producers decide what you see”, and related a story of the producers cutting out a segment because you could hear the bone crunching when she spatchcocked a chicken: an indication of how disconnected we have become from how food is created. Anna agreed, saying that we need to recreate that connection with the nutrients, and how packaged and fast food has separated us from that. Unlike the research shown in the NYT article, she doesn’t consider mixing fresh ingredients into prepared food to be “cooking”, but admits that it’s better than just using prepared food. She has canning parties with her friends, which shows a greater dedication to being aware of what you eat than many of us have.

Ryan and his girlfriend have embarked on an interesting culinary experiment: for a month (which they are halfway through), they are cooking everything from scratch. And by “scratch”, he means making everything from tortillas to butter. He said that he didn’t realize that he was that good of a cook until he started cooking with friends, and contrasted his skills with theirs; what we might consider basics such as making a chicken stock or a roux is intimidating to others.

Amanda discussed the influence of coming from a family where there was a home-cooked meal on the table every night: she follows recipes fairly religiously, and plans ahead for meals five nights each week to avoid becoming overwhelmed and ending up eating take-out junk. I’m not nearly that organized, but I also rarely use recipes so my cooking can usually accommodate whatever happens to be in the fridge. She also mentioned some good starter cooking tips on Pretty Savvy, including her suggestion to make YouTube your sous chef.

The three competing factors in food today are cost, health and time: you’re usually trading off on at least one of these, whether you’re eating at McDonalds (bad for your health), buying gourmet prepared foods at Whole Foods (your pocketbook suffers), or cooking meals from scratch at home (if you have the time). With a greater awareness of health issues – thanks to Super Size Me and a raft of other information sources – many of us are only making the cost/time tradeoff, and with the economy in the toilet, lots of people are okay with spending more time if it costs less. Theresa pointed out that there are a lot of ways to save a lot of time while still cooking good food from scratch. For one, start using your oven again; food TV is biased towards stovetop cooking, which typically takes constant attention, but most things cooked in the oven are tossed in there are left on their own for a while, freeing you up for other activities. The same is true of slow cookers: she suggested that a student heading off to university could be equipped with a slow cooker, a rice cooker and a few basic recipes, and eat healthily all semester without spending a lot of time in preparation.

The panel seemed in agreement that if we lose the ability to cook, we become dysfunctional in many ways in our life. I also concur: in my experience, cooking what we eat isn’t just about eating better, it’s about making a house into a home.

Dinner at Tutti Matti

The finished product: baby tomatoes cooked with garlic and basil, served with ricotta

A few weeks ago, Chef Alida Solomon from Tutti Matti gave a cooking demo at our local St. Andrew’s Market, where she cooked baby heirloom tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, salt and fresh basil to make a delicious sauce for pasta. The fates conspired against getting a large pot of water to the boil that day at the market and we weren’t able to enjoy it on pasta, but she served it in small cups with a dollop of ricotta mixed with fresh herbs. Since then, I’ve recreated her recipe at home with delicious results: very easy, and very reliant on the tastes of the fresh ingredients.

I haven’t been in Tutti Matti for a long time, probably since just after it first opened, and her demo reminded me of a great Tuscan restaurant in the neighbourhood with which I should become reacquainted. Luckily, my sister Betty and friend Pat read my blog, and decided to take me there for a pre-birthday dinner last night. It wasn’t at all busy on a Saturday night at 7pm; it did pick up by the time that we left, and I think that they draw a bigger crowd during the week from all the office around there.

The food was divine: we started with their speciality appetizer of the evening, “prosciutto four ways”: the classic prosciutto-wrapped melon, prosciutto wrapped around figs and then grilled, the same treatment for peaches, and a fourth way that completely escapes me right now because the grilled prosciutto-wrapped peaches were so freaking good that I was completely transported to another dimension. This would be so easy to do at home: firm, largish pieces of freestone peaches, probably almost a quarter peach, wrapped in prosciutto then grilled until it starts to crisp on the outside, which means that the peach is starting to caramelize a bit inside. We also shared the carpaccio affumicato, which paired smoked duck and smoked venison each with complementary garnishes: orange and pecorino for the duck, and figs, pine nuts and arugula for the venison. The third appetizer, which I know that we ordered from the menu but is not on the version on their website, was thinly sliced roasted pork with a tuna sauce, which sounds a bit weird but was incredible: the sauce had sufficient acidity to perfectly offset the sweetness of the pork.

For the mains, Betty and Pat both had the pasta special, a lobster ravioli with fresh peas; I tried a taste, and it was lovely. All their pastas are made in-house, and the quality really shows. I had the pappardelle con stracotto, which is wide, hand-cut noodles with pulled brisket, cherry tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs. The flavour was wonderfully rich and complex, the perfect meal for the cool evening that we were having. I’ve had pappardelle with cinghiale (wild boar) in Italy, a very typical Tuscan dish, and this was reminiscent of that in all the right ways; I notice that she has tagliatelle con cinghiale on the lunch menu, which definitely motivates me to head over there for a long lunch some day. We accompanied this with a nice – and nicely priced – Chianti Classico Reservi.

We had skipped the secondi (meat or fish course) in order to save room for dessert; for that, we shared a selection of biscotti (including seriously decadent dark chocolate cookies) and a cheese plate, washed down with vin santo. All excellent.

The service was perfect: our main server was there when we needed him, offered friendly advice when asked, kept the water glasses full and generally seemed to enjoy talking to us. Chef Alida came by near the end of our meal and chatted; I know her from the market, although this didn’t seem to be special treatment for us: she was checking in at most tables to make sure that everyone was enjoying their evening. We were not rushed at all, and spent a leisurely 3 hours or so at dinner.

Open for dinner every day except Sunday, and open for lunch on weekdays. Although their website doesn’t mention it (so you should call to check before showing up with bottle in hand), BringMyWine states that they allow BYOW Monday-Thursday for a $30/bottle corkage – pricey, but worth it if you have an expensive bottle at home that you want to have with your meal.

Promoting a community market with social media

Last night, I was invited to give a presentation at Ignite! Toronto, part of O’Reilly’s Ignite! series, in which each presenter has 5 minutes to present their 20 slides, and the slides advance automatically every 15 seconds. In a complete left turn from my usual enterprise-y topics, I presented on how I am using social media to promote St. Andrew’s Market, our local farmers’ market that just started this year:

The slides may not make a lot of sense if you didn’t hear the presentation, although you will get the gist of it. Basically, I’m part of a local volunteer committee that’s charged with promoting the market within the neighborhood to help drive traffic to it, and I’m using various social media methods and some technology to tie them together as part of our campaign. All presentations last night were captured on video and hopefully will be posted online somewhere soon; I’ll link to that when I see it.

Via tweet from @ryancoleman

Since I’m pretty geeky, I used the technology in ways that non-techies may not: see slide 17 for what could best be described as a context diagram for my market message delivery framework. 🙂 One piece of this is based on some Python scripting that my other half did to help automate a list of Twitter messages each week, and the picture at the right is the point in the presentation where I said “…and this picture is why he’s not here tonight”, since it depicts him wearing a cardboard cone with the label “800 MHz” on his head. What I didn’t have time to explain is that the cone was part of a prototype of a discone antenna with a central frequency of 800 MHz, part of his home-built HD OTA project.

I had great feedback from audience members after the presentation, and I hope that I inspired a few people to take on projects like this in the future to help community projects that don’t have a big marketing budget. I also had a ton of fun, and look forward to my next Ignite! presentation.

Market Flavours: Red Cabbage with Red Onions and Peaches

I obviously made a tactical error last week by publishing the stuffed zucchini blossoms experience; this week, Bosco Farms was sold out of zucchini blossoms before I made it over to his market stand. Next week, I’ll be faster off the mark.

CabbageI did, however, find a fresh little red cabbage and some red onions there, plus peaches from Loffredo Fruit Farms. With a pork tenderloin planned for dinner, I had the urge for some cooked red cabbage on the side. I’ve done so many variations on this, with ingredients ranging from caraway seeds to apples and blackcurrants, and it’s always about getting the balance right between sweet and sour.

This time, I chopped a large red onion and a firm peach, then cooked them over medium-high heat in a deep skillet with bit of olive oil. I quartered the cabbage and remove the core, then sliced it thin; the cabbage was quite small but yielded a couple of generous handfuls. Once the onion and peach were slightly caramelized, I tossed in the cabbage, a few sage leaves and a cinnamon stick, then poured over a bit of red wine vinegar (for the acidity) and a bit of red wine. I turned down the heat, covered the pot, and let it cook for about 45-60 minutes; I’ve also done this in a slow cooker for several hours, which works well. I then added a few tablespoons of a tart orange marmalade, the type made with fruit juices instead of sugar or sweeteners, and let it cook a while longer. I added salt to taste, and removed the cinnamon stick.

PeachesI served this with a pork tenderloin that I had rubbed in the Barbeque Rub from The Spice Trader (another local business that I love to frequent); this particular rub has a strong paprika base which complemented the sweet and sour cabbage tastes well. I dried the tenderloin (having seen Julie & Julia the previous night, in which we learned that meat needs to be dry to brown properly), added the BBQ rub, then browned it all over in a bit of olive oil. I put a lid on the skillet then popped it in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes, or until it registered an internal temperature of 145F, then removed it to a carving board and tented it with foil for 15 minutes before carving.

Next time, I’ll try thyme instead of sage to accent the peaches, and maybe a bit of grated orange zest for a sharper citrus undertone. One thing that I really love about a cabbage recipe like this is that it makes great leftovers: the flavours have a chance to blend a bit more by the next day.

Cabbage, onions and peaches are available at the St. Andrew’s Farmers’ Market; I bought mine from Bosco Farms and Loffredo Fruit Farms this week. The market is on every Saturday until October 31st, rain or shine, 9am-1pm.

Tomato Crush with Chef Alida at St. Andrew’s Market

July 25th was the first of our events at the Historic St. Andrew’s MyMarket: a demonstration of three crostini recipes by chefs from George Brown College. This Saturday, August 8th, we’ll be hosting Chef Alida Solomon from Tutti Matti as she presents a Tuscan spin on what to do with the wonderful tomatoes available at the market. Chef Alida shops at the market regularly, as do other chefs in the neighbourhood, and has been known to carry off several crates of heirloom tomatoes in a single visit.

Heirloom tomatoesAlthough my background is pretty WASP-y, I grew up in an Italian neighbourhood where we visited Italian bakeries for veal sandwiches and espresso rather than McDonald’s for burgers and Coke after school, and I consider pasta and at least four types of olive oil to be staples in my kitchen. I spent my best vacation ever at a cooking school in Tuscany, going to the garden overlooking the hills and vineyards to pick the fresh produce for that day’s lesson, cooking in an open-air kitchen, then enjoying the finished product under the courtyard pergola. Can you tell that I’m looking forward to this week’s demo, as well as returning to Tutti Matti for Chef Alida’s mouthwatering cuisine?

Mark your calendars for more events coming soon:

  • August 28th: Getting Peachy with Chef Chris from Ultra Supper Club
  • September 19th: Apples and Ontario Cheese with Leslieville Cheese Market (which now has a shop just around the corner from the market)
  • October 24th: Pumpkin Carving judged by the local Montessori school kids

We also had such a great response to the George Brown College chefs that we’re going to invite them back, probably sometime in September.

If you have other ideas about what you’d like to see at the market, or can volunteer to help organize events, email us at [email protected]. You can also join our Facebook group at //, follow @standrewsmarket on Twitter at //, and see photos of the market (and contribute your own) on Flickr at//[email protected]/pool/.

The Historic St. Andrew’s MyMarket is at the corner of Adelaide Street West and Maud Street, about halfway between Bathurst and Spadina, in the parking lot beside St. Andrew’s Park: // We’re there every Saturday between 9am-1pm, rain or shine, until October 31st.

Please spread the word about the market, we need the community to make this successful!