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Monday, February 22, 2010

Oh Canada!

If you've been living on a desert island, you may not be aware that the Winter Olympics are currently taking place in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. It's somewhat of a big deal here in Canada and admittedly, I do beam with pride when I see those gorgeous aerial shots of Vancouver and surrounds. It's a beautiful part of our country and I am glad that the rest of the world now knows about this magical and beautiful place.

Not only is Vancouver known for its spectacular natural beauty, it is also a mecca for cuisine. Some of Canada's best known restaurants and chefs are found in this city and food trends that eventually find themselves in Toronto often have their roots in Vancouver. With its close proximity to the sea, it is no wonder that Vancouver also boasts some of the best sushi outside of Japan. And if you are in search of seriously fresh fish and that connection to the people who "catch" your food, drive out to Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, to meet the fishing boats and inspect that morning's catch. You probably couldn't find fresher fish.

For this week's post, I thought I might do something Canadian inspired to celebrate the Olympics. While there isn't really a Canadian cuisine in the same way there is distinct French, Japanese or Italian food, I think the consensus is that Canadian cuisine is probably characterized by the use of our local produce and local flavours.

I came up with a dish that reflects the foods of this vast nation. From the West, there is nothing more reflective of BC than salmon, from the Prairies, I chose lentils (Did you know that Canada is the world's largest exporter of lentils?), and from the East, glorious maple syrup from Quebec.

The salmon is prepared very simply - it is pan seared until the skin crisps up and finished with a glaze of maple syrup from Oka, Quebec. Then it is laid a top of bed of lovely brown lentils. (For this dish, I prefer French lentils (when I can find them) as they keep their shape and don't shed their skins when cooked. Unfortunately, for this post, I could not find them and have substituted brown lentils. The texture is slightly different but still delicious nevertheless.)

Grilled Salmon with Warm Lentil Salad

1 lb Pacific center-cut salmon - cut into four portions (or if you are looking for larger portions, I would say 1/2lb per person)
1 c brown lentils (or Du Puy aka French lentils, if available)

1 lemon - zest & juice
1 1/2 tbsp capers
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp light olive oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
optional: maple syrup for finishing

1. Cook lentils according to package instructions. Do not overcook.
2. Meanwhile, roughly chop capers. Add to a large bowl along with lemon zest, juice, sugar & olive oil. Once lentils are cooked drain them well and add them to vinaigrette. Gently toss.
3. Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large pan on high heat. Turn down to medium-high and cook salmon skin side down until the skin is nicely browned and crisp. Carefully turn fish over and cook on the opposite side. Cook until medium - approximately 10 minutes.
4. Serve salmon immediately on a bed of warm lentils.

*If there is leftover lentil salad, it is delicious on its own with some crumbled goat cheese on top.

Go Canada Go!
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