Event: Taste of Toronto 2015

Screen shot 2015-06-25 at 2.50.02 PMSummertime in Toronto is never short of street festivals and events. You can be sure that every weekend from June to September, there is something happening and it generally involves food and drink. Toronto has quickly become a Mecca for foodies and food connoisseurs alike.

This year, Taste of Toronto, which runs from 2-5 July 2015, will be hosting its second annual food tasting event featuring samples of al fresco gourmet foods from many of Toronto’s latest and greatest restaurants. In fact, there will be over 70 exhibitors in attendance! How great is that?!

After reading up on this year’s food offerings, which will include gluten-free choices suitable to my dietary needs, I decided that I can and would attend this year’s event. No arm-twisting required.

The location for Taste of Toronto will be at the historic Fort York, a hop, skip and jump from Toronto’s Harbourfront. Fort York will be transformed into a food lover’s paradise featuring ample food, drinks and entertainment. And of course, every foodie’s favourite past-time, chef-spotting. You may even be fortunate enough to convince one of your favourite Toronto chefs, to stand still long enough to pose for a photo with you.

Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 11.00.34 PM

Taste of Toronto 2015 restaurant and star lineup

  • Adrian Niman, Rasa
  • Alvin Leung and Eric Chong, R&D (Thursday and Friday only)
  • Amanda Ray, Biff’s Bistro
  • Anthony Walsh and Michael Bonacini, Oliver & Bonacini
  • Bill Osborne, America
  • Carl Heinrich, Richmond Station
  • Cory Vitiello and Robbie Hojilla, The Harbord Room and THR & Co.
  • Damon Campbell, Bosk
  • David Neinstein, Barque
  • Elia Herrera, Los Colibris and El Caballito
  • Franco Stalteri, Charlie’s Burgers
  • Jonathan Waxman and Matt Robertson, Montecito
  • Ippei Iwata, Aki Urata and Koji Tashiro, Guu Toronto, Kintori Yakitori and Kinton Ramen (Saturday only)
  • Masaharu Morimoto, Morimoto Toronto
  • Michael van den Winkel, Little Sister
  • Miheer Shete, Bannock
  • Rob Bragagnolo, Marben (Sunday only)
  • Stuart Cameron, Byblos, Patria and Weslodge
  • Ted Corrado and Matt DeMille, The Drake Hotel, The Drake Devonshire and Drake One Fifty
  • Victor Barry, Splendido
  • Lynn Crawford, Egg Farmers of Canada Chef Ambassador
  • Mark McEwan, McEwan Group
  • Massimo Capra, Galbani Cheese
  • Rick Moonen, True North Salmon

Chef Masaharu Morimoto (above)

A new face to keep an eye out for is renowned chef Masaharu Morimoto, Iron Chef and Michelin-starred mastermind. He will be debuting his signature dishes from his latest restaurant aptly named,  Masaharu Morimoto, scheduled to open in the King West neighbourhood in late 2015.  This will be his first venture into the Canadian food scene. Festival goers will be fortunate enough to sample some of Morimoto’s fusion Japanese creations, like Uni Carbonara made with quail egg, smoked bacon and parmesan, as well as Toro Tartare served with caviar, sour cream, wasabi and dashi soy.

Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 11.00.07 PM

Chef Roger Mooking (above)

Visitors will have the opportunity to attend food demos hosted by well-known local chefs, including a chance to get their hands dirty by joining in on the interactive food-making programs. A music stage to get your groove on, a Tasting Room for numerous libations, a VIP lounge to relax and regroup with your friends, and a boutique fruit and drink market for the shopping enthusiast, are just a smattering of the many attractions available for everyone attending Taste of Toronto 2015.

To make it easier for everyone, the required currency at Taste of Toronto will be the Crown. Crowns are equivalent to dollars (1 Crown = $1). At the beginning of the event there will be “banks” where visitors can add currency to their crown card, similar to a debit card, therefore making it easier to pay for your food without the added stress of dealing with coins and wallets, while you try to hold onto your most coveted food. This year a new feature has been added to the crown card, the “top-up!” This allows visitors to keep adding crown currency to their card so they never have to go hungry or miss out on things like, Montecito’s meatballs with creamy polenta with tomato sugo. Yes, that is one delicious sounding food option.

Screen shot 2015-06-25 at 3.09.41 PM

So there you have it food-lovers, a great opportunity to try some gourmet food from Toronto’s finest restaurants and chefs. Places that you may not otherwise get a chance to eat at will be ready, willing and eager to fill your mouth with fresh salads, tacos, pork buns, ceviche, oysters, bbq ribs, paella, lobster rolls, funnel cakes, panna cotta and gourmet popsicles. Last but not least, let us not forget about the assortment of fine local wines and beers, and of course non-alcohol refreshments to be had at the ready.

Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 11.00.12 PM

I’m definitely looking forward to attending Taste of Toronto this year! My advice to you would be to get there early in order to 1) avoid the back log of line-ups, which I’m sure will be unavoidable at such a popular event; and 2) Ensure that you get to sample your favourite foods before they sell out!

For more information on Taste of Toronto visit their website.

Screen shot 2015-06-25 at 2.52.04 PM

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spiced Hazelnut Carob Cookies

IMG_20150315_152958  IMG_20150315_152703

Once in a while I make something that is so good I can’t stop thinking about it. About a week ago I made a batch of gluten-free, vegan cookies using carob powder. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of great results with these carob spice cookies because a few days earlier, I had made a batch of carob chip cookies from the same website, and the results were kind of disappointing.

So back in the kitchen I went with a new cookie recipe and some trepidation.

This recipe yielded 5 cookies in all. They were large, hefty mound cookies that held their shape well. Still I was a bit nervous. You see I may have completed a pastry chef program at a local community college a while back BUT I am not a seasoned vegan, gluten-free baker. It’s always a gamble when you omit eggs, butter, and all purpose flour, the things I was trained to use over and over again and instead substitute with flax eggs, a flour alternative like rice, almond or tapioca and some kind of vegetable oil, to keep things together.

So when I saw those beautiful cookie mounds coming out of the oven looking perfect, I was quite pleased. But what about the taste, you ask? Well after allowing the cookies to cool down for 20 minutes or so, I bit into one. It had a crisp exterior and a soft chewy interior. I used hazelnut flour instead of the almond flour listed in the recipe and the results were fantastic. The texture was chewy and aromatic from the baked hazelnut flour, the carob and the warming spices.

Between my husband and I, the 5 cookies did not last long. They were devoured on a Sunday afternoon.

IMG_20150315_151916

Spiced hazelnut carob cookies

(adapted from healthfulpursuit.com)

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups ground hazelnuts (or almond flour)

  • ¼ cup arrowroot powder

  • 3 tablespoons carob powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup safflower oil (or another vegetable oil)

  • ⅓ cup maple syrup, honey, or another liquid sweetener

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisking until combined. Set aside.

  3. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl, whisking until combined.

  4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix with a spoon until fully incorporated. The mixture will be coarse, just keep mixing it until all of the dry bits are incorporated into a large mass of coarse dough.

  5. Scoop cookie dough into a ¼ cup measuring cup, turn it over and drop it onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space (1-inch) between each cookie.

  6. Gently flatten the cookies. Place cookies in the pre-heated oven to bake for 10-15 minutes. Mine were ready in 10 minutes.

  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the pan for 20-30 minutes. Dig in and enjoy! They won’t last long.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Buckwheat banana snacking cake: A one-bowl wonder

IMG_20150215_153005

One of the most challenging things to adjust to when embarking on an elimination diet is having to avoid gluten. It’s used in everything and found everywhere. Baking at home can be a bit more challenging as you will need to incorporate several extra ingredients to compensate for the lack of gluten. Extras may include xantham gum, arrowroot powder, potato starch, etc. The chemistry behind it can be challenging to even the most seasoned pastry chef.

For this recipe, the ONLY flour you will need to use is buckwheat. That’s it. No sifting, and mixing of compatible flours to create moistness and integrity. It all comes together nicely without having to use 4 different flours. No lie. It’s easy-peasy and I really love the wholesome flavour that buckwheat imparts on baked goods. The bananas in the recipe add moistness, without making the cake too sweet. The flax “eggs” that I used in lieu of the eggs, also create a lovely textured cake that is neither dry nor crumbly. In essence it’s a cake that I plan to make again for it’s simplicity and delicious flavour.

IMG_20150215_152603

Gluten-free banana buckwheat cake (adapted from powerhungry.com)

1  1/2 cups buckwheat flour

3/4 cup coconut sugar (or whichever sugar you want to use)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

1  3/4 cups VERY ripe bananas, mashed with a fork or pureed in a food processor ( I placed my bananas in a mini food processor and whizzed them to create a creamy consistency)

2 tbs flax meal & 6 tbs water to make flax “eggs” (or 2 whole eggs)

2/3 cup sunflower oil (or a neutral tasting oil)

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans – if using (Toast pecans on baking sheet for approx. 5 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep a careful watch as they can burn quite easily).

(Note: you can also add chocolate chips to this recipe if you like. I skipped the chocolate because for me it’s an inflammatory ingredient).

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square pan. I used coconut oil.

Mix all the dry ingredients together  in a bowl (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt)

Add in the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, one at a time starting with the oil, then the flax eggs, the vanilla extract, then the mashed bananas and finally the chopped pecans. (You can also reserve a few chopped pecans and sprinkle them on top of the cake.) Mix everything in the bowl well until incorporated.

Pour the cake batter into the greased pan. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon or a spatula. (At this point you can sprinkle a few pecans on the top of the cake if you like.)

Pop the pan into the oven for approx. 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick or a skewer comes out with only a few crumbs. Remember this is a moist cake so it will show crumbs on your toothpick. That is totally ok. Don’t continue to bake the cake thinking it is still raw.

Remove the cake pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Cut into squares and enjoy! It tastes equally nice as a warm cake or as a cold cake the next day. I had a piece for breakfast the next day and it was sublime.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coconut Split Lentil Stew: kick that deep freeze in the butt

The weather has been exceptionally COLD lately. Like really, REALLY, painfully cold. I get it. We live in Toronto, Canada. It’s supposed to be cold during winter. The best way to counteract the cold weather is to dress warmly, with layers and layers of clothing, thick socks, a winter coat, snow boots, a hat, a scarf and gloves or mittens. It’s not rocket science. Another way to deal with this extreme cold is to eat warming foods like this creamy, coconuty, gingery split lentil stew.

IMG_20150215_192623~2

Just as an aside, I  didn’t follow a recipe. I sort of made this stew up as I went along and I added things that I already had in my kitchen. Feel free to use what you like in terms of vegetables and also what you have on hand. You can add diced potatoes, zucchini, peas, whatever. I’m following an anti-inflammatory diet so I chose ingredients that I know will agree with me.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups orange split lentils (rinsed)

3 – 4 carrots sliced into coins

3 – 4 stalks celery sliced

2 – 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 small purple onion, roughly chopped

small knob of fresh ginger about 1 tablespoon, roughly chopped

3/4  to 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (plain)

1/2 cup of coconut manna or 1 cup coconut milk

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 tsp sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 3 cups boiled water for cooking lentils (I find cold water slows down the cooking process)

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a pot on medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, carrots and celery together with the olive oil. Cover with lid for a few minutes to sweat.

When the vegetables have sweated after about 4 – 5 minutes, add the ginger and the pumpkin. You may also need to add some (about 1/2 cup) of the boiled water to this mixture to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the base.

Continue to cook, gently stirring. At this point you may also add the salt and turmeric. Also,  lower the heat a bit. Now proceed to add approximately 3 to 4 cups of hot water and add the lentils. The lentils will absorb much of the liquid in the pot so you want to make sure there is enough water for them to cook completely.

Put the lid back on your pot and continue to boil the stew at a slightly lower temperature than earlier to avoid scorching the base of your pot. I find that things can stick very easily once the lentils have been added.

Allow the lentils to turn mushy and then add your coconut manna or your coconut milk. You can use whichever you have on hand. The manna melted like butter into the stew and developed a creamy consistency. Note: If you add coconut milk, you may want to refrain from adding too much water to your lentils in the earlier step (above). You don’t want your stew to get too soupy.

And that is it. Take a spoon to taste a bit of the stew when you feel it is finished. Make any flavour adjustments. Add more salt if you like or more coconut milk. Give everything a good stir. Remove from heat when the lentils have turned mushy and the veggies are soft.

Enjoy the warming and nutritious effects of this hearty stew.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

cuckoo for coconuts: triple coconut granola

This gallery contains 2 photos.

A few months ago, as I was browsing the aisles of a gourmet food shop I discovered coconut sap sitting on the shelf in the baking section. I was so intrigued by it, I brought a bag home with me. … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

forgot to take a photo: the best chicken & rice dish ever

This gallery contains 1 photo.

This is one of those times where I have to apologize in advance for the lack of food photos. I made a saucy chicken dish with sticky Japanese rice the other day and was so riveted in shoveling the food … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

in search of freshness: baked fish, the Greek way

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Living in Toronto means having access to all kinds of great food and fresh produce, both imported and local. The only issue I have is with accessibility to fresh fish and seafood. We are landlocked and because of this we … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments