Roast beef and turnip with zucchini/potato pancakes

A challenge I’ve had this summer has been deciding what to cook when a rogue, inopportune item shows up in our CSA. Example: a lone turnip in mid July. Call me a purist, but around here turnips usually have a place on the table once October or November rolls around. Now and then, odd-timed items like this have steered a whole meal. The test here was what to cook with our single tuber. Again, in mid July.

Roast Beef and Turnips

  • 3 lbs. – Eye of the round roast (tied around the centre)
  • 1 – Shallots (finely minced)
  • 1 – Large turnip (diced)
  • 1/4 Cup – Red wine
  • 2 tbsp – Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 300° and a large steel frying pan to medium-high.
  2. Coat the roast with salt and pepper on all sides.
  3. Sear the meat approximately 3 to 4 minutes on both sides.
  4. Move the meat to a plate and cover with foil. Keep the pan on the heat.
  5. Put the butter in the pan and swirl it around. Once it’s melted and the bubbling stops add the shallots. Cook until translucent.
  6. Add the turnip pieces and cook until they’re brown, about 5 minutes.
  7. Once the turnip pieces have browned clear the centre of the pan and place the roast back. Pour in any juices left in the plate.
  8. Use a meat thermometer with the alarm set to go off at 130°.
  9. Pour the red wine over the roast and place the pan in the oven.
  10. Once the meat has hit temperature remove it from the oven.
  11. Place the roast on a clean plate and tent with foil again. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Pour the cooked turnips into a serving bowl.
  12. Carve meat and serve.

Zucchini/Potato pancakes (makes 4 pancakes)

  • 1 large – Zucchini
  • 1 large – Potato
  • 2 tbsp – Flour
  • 2 – Egg yokes
  • 4 tbsp – Butter (2 tbsp per batch)
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Trim top and bottom of zucchini and peal the potato.
  2. Shred both through a large grater.
  3. Pile grated vegetables in a tea-towel and squeeze out as much juice as possible.
  4. Pre-heat large frying pan on medium heat.
  5. In a bowl, mix together vegetables with the flour, yokes, salt and pepper.
  6. Put 2 tbsp of the butter in the hot pan and swirl it around. Once it’s melted and the bubbling stops make two round pancakes in the pan with half of the mixture.
  7. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown on first side.
  8. Flip and cook on the other side for 3 to 4 minutes.
  9. When the pancakes are cooked, place them on a cooling rack.
  10. Repeat steps 6 – 9 for second batch.

Sure, doesn’t this meal seem more like a fall or winter dish? Maybe. But llet me tell you it was perfect for a summer night outside on the deck.


Aspiring to do more with what we have

Pulling over his vehicle on a Cape Breton roadside to take my phone call, Chef Ardon Mofford is in the homestretch of sourcing the local Nova Scotia products that will be diced, seared, pureed, and certainly transformed by visiting Michelin-star chefs starting in one week (August 25) for the Right Some Good culinary event.

The event has multiple locales throughout Cape Breton Island during the next few weeks. Ingredients going into the menus are just as rooted, coming from farms across the island.

“I’m sourcing all vegetable products from local farmers as well as lamb, duck, foie gras, caviar. I’m still sourcing protein right now,” Ardon says.

Chef Ardon had just recently driven through Iona and popped in to see a couple of farms. Going to farmers’ markets, driving around the island to meet new people, and finding out first-hand what’s in season is what he’s been doing since January 2011 for the Right Some Good menus.

“What stands out is just how many farmers are on the island committed to growing product. I’ve been a chef for so long and we don’t really appreciate what they are doing until you go out and visit the farms and get the farm-to-table feel.”
– Chef Ardon Mofford.

As a chef in the second-generation, family owned Governor’s Pub and Eatery in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Ardon is also drawing on his existing, deep connections, especially to source dockside-fresh fish from Louisbourg Seafoods.  And speaking of family and deep connections, Ardon’s sister, Pearleen Mofford, is the founder of the Right Some Good event on Cape Breton Island.

Pearleen tells me she remembers as a child watching her father, as a chef, fillet and portion halibut the size of a tabletop. “He spent three hours cutting it down to pieces, and he used to share with his line cooks how to do that as well,” she says.

“That’s why we are doing Right Some Good – it is about sharing, and collaborating, and learning from each other.”
– Pearleen Mofford.

In this day and age where fish is often pre-filleted, skills like this still need to be shared today to pass along generations of knowledge and technique, which is part of the behind-the-scenes benefit of Right Some Good. 

Teaming up with the ten visiting Michelin-star chefs  are local Cape Breton chefs and junior chefs (enrolled or recently graduated) from culinary programs across Canada.
“Just to work with every one of those chefs is just going to be amazing for me,” says Chef Ardon. “I’d have to travel to ten different countries to experience this, so as a chef it’s amazing and a wonderful opportunity for all of us.”

And what local menu item, soon to be in the hands of a visiting Michelin-star master and team of inspired Canadians, has piqued particular pondering and culinary curiosity…

Pearleen? — “Nobody locally prepares the sea cucumber. I’m really looking forward to seeing it prepared and tasting it.”

Ardon? —  “The sea cucumber is very unique to me. It’s about the size of a cucumber and the yield is about a tablespoon of meat.  I can’t wait to work with it because it is a product we have in Cape Breton, but I’ve never seen what chefs do with it.”

I completely agree! Check out sea cucumbers, and then the menu of Chef Alvin Leung of Hong Kong who will use them while in Judique, Cape Breton.

To all beef patties special sauce – let us break up

Dear Ronald:

This is tough for me to write. But it needs to be done. Trust me when I say I’ve given this a lot of thought. So here is it: We need to break up.

It’s not you, it’s me. Really. It feels like we just want different things. The late-night romps at the drive-thru aren’t enough for me anymore. I mean, it’s fun for a moment but then poof, that great feeling just evaporates. And to be honest — and I know this might hurt your feelings — I often feel like crap right after I see you. I should have told you this earlier, I know. I’m sorry for that. But when you think about it, you must have known something was up. I mean, we haven’t seen each other for a while.

To be completely honest, I’m seeing someone new. There’s no need for names so I’m just going to call him CSA. It’s been about eight weeks and things are going great. I feel fulfilled and satisfied, like this relationship is really going to last. It feels… healthy.
We see each other on Tuesdays, and there’s enough variety every week to keep things spicy. I shouldn’t rub it in, but people tell me I’m glowing.

So, I won’t be coming around anymore. Not for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, late dinner, midnight snack, etc. Don’t even try to tempt me by flashing those bewitching golden you-know-whats. I’ll just change my jogging route. (That’s right, I exercise now)

I have no doubt you’ll find someone new. You are very charismatic.

Thanks for the memories,

Cracking egg salad

Just about anything goes when making egg salad. Raid your fridge for condiments and fresh vegetables and the variations can be endless. Of course you can always go for the basic chopped eggs with mayo only. But why settle? I think a good egg salad should be as much about texture as taste.

Recipe (makes 4 to 5 sandwiches)

  • 6 to 7 – Hard boiled eggs
  • 3 to 4 tbsp each – Chopped red onion, pickles, cucumber, parsley
  • 4 tbsp – Mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 3 to 4 tbsp each – Chopped celery, capers, lettuce, chives, bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp – Mustard (with 2 tbsp of mayo)
  • Pinch – Turmeric, smoked Paprika, Cayenne Pepper

And there are so many ways to serve this up. Try a cup of egg salad on top of some lightly dressed romaine lettuce, spinach, beet greens or thick-sliced tomato. Respect the classics and go for an egg salad sandwich, plain or toasted. Other variations could be a wrap, bagel or open-faced rye bread egg salad sandwich with sprouts. Remember, texture is important. You don’t want just a pile of eggy mush.

Hard boiled eggs

Want to know how to make a great egg salad even better? By boiling those eggs properly! Believe it or not there’s more to it than just putting eggs in water and cooking the @#$% out of them. Boiling eggs the right way requires an attentive eye and some patience. Here’s a fail-proof method I use.

  1. Place the eggs in enough water so that they’re covered over by about an inch.
  2. Put the heat on high and let the water come to a boil. Don’t walk away!
  3. When you start to see large bubbles in the water, lower the temperature to an active simmer. Turn on your timer to 9 or 10 minutes. I prefer 9 minutes.
  4. When the timer dings, drain out the hot water and run cold water over the eggs. This stops the cooking.
  5. Pour out the cold water and lightly slam the eggs around in the empty pot until the shells crack a bit. Add more cold water. Repeat this step a few more times then pile in some ice. The cracking allows water to get in behind the shell which makes for easier peeling.

Lowering the temperature after the water comes to a boil is important. Eggs cooked over too high a heat, for too long, will have an off-putting green sulfur film around the yoke.

I recently switched to buying fresh eggs from the farmer’s market. Truthfully, I can’t say I taste a huge difference between them and ones from the grocery store. To tell if your eggs are fresh is very simple. A fresh egg will have a compact yoke and the white will be dense, sitting in a watery outer layer. As an egg ages the yoke will spread out and flatten and the white will look more like water.

Halifax Seaport Beerfest: the good, the bad and the expensive

Friday night I attended the 2011 Halifax Seaport Beerfest. Now in its fifth year, the event has three different times slots spanning two days where visitors can sample over 200 beer and cider options from 70 different breweries.

I was pretty excited to be there on the first evening. As I entered the site, the overall mood was good. Sadly by the end of the night I left with a very mixed impression. Why? Let’s face some facts.

The good
Location. Without a doubt being outside at the seaport facility was a highlight. The modern buildings flanking the beer tents, the cool breeze and live music made the evening very festive. A big plus!

Variety. Over 200 options is a lot to try in one night. If you decided not to latch onto a favourite, you could avoid having the same sample twice.

Brewery reps. When the folks serving up the ales had time to speak with me I was always greeted with a smile and pleasant chit-chat.

Food. Nice to see that local restaurants were there selling their chow. Everything I tasted was really good and the service was pretty damn quick considering the crowds. There could easily have been only real slop or fast-food available. Thankfully there wasn’t. The quality was amazing. However…

The bad
Food prices, my biggest gripe. All over the city street meat typically costs $3.50 to $4.00 for a full wiener with bun. Fid Restaurant was selling what looked like less than half of a sausage on a tennis ball sized bun with not one condiment available for $5.00 each. Even though they were delicious that price was just plain wrong and inexcusable. Shameful.

Missing local breweries. Granite and Propeller were missing. What gives?

Crowds. Within a short time it became clear that the vast majority of attendees were just drinkers out to start the weekend piss-up. Not that I disapproved of that but I would have hoped for more of a connoisseur set with less pushing, shoving and brutal lineups.

Signage. With so many samples there could have been more clarity for what I was waiting in line to try. Especially at the pavilions. The Maine, Ontario and Quebec tents had no overhead signage so I didn’t know what line I was until it was my turn. At that point I felt rushed to choose a beer because of all the people waiting behind me.

Samples. I suppose limits are required but after a long line attendees were typically poured about an once of beer. Even with this small amount most tents were out of some beers halfway through the night.

Event price. $50 bucks including taxes was a lot to pay just to attend. Couple that with expensive food, the lineups, poorly displayed information and meager samples meant the event was just not worth the money.

The Halifax Seaport Beerfest was okay but really could use some improvements. A clearer focus on pricing, organization and signage would be places to start. Also the event could be marketed better to those who want the opportunity to really taste beer and discuss it. Being one of that crowd I felt left out. I admit, “all you can drink” is an attractive draw to the party crowd out to lay down an evening’s foundation but in the end that made it hard to take the event seriously.

Summer sweet peas and umami richness

With our wet early summer 2011, my kitchen garden was off to a stunted start.  But recent weeks have been a perfect incubator for these fat little babies — sweet summer peas, beet greens, and a chard that impersonates spinach!

Borrowing from Tom’s last post’s inspiration — raiding the refrigerator — I wanted to do a raid, too, but of the raised vegetable beds.

The fresh peas are blanched, retaining firmness and sweetness, but popping green from behind a once-downy pale. Beets, too, are sweet. But their greens have more of that umami, earthy flavour.  The chard/spinach greens also add that slightly mineral flavour once cooked.  So… sweet and savoury will be this recipe’s main characters for a basic pasta dish with a pan sauce of juices, pasta water, tomato paste and aged balsamic.

For a base note to run throughout the upfront flavours, I’ve raided my oils cupboard. Weeks ago, I picked up a bottle of black truffle-infused olive oil from Liquid Gold in our fab Halifax Hydrostone Market (insert nod here to the Bostonians for their rebuilding help of this end of town after the WW1-era explosion).

…Completely experimental and made up without measurement, just tasting along the way.

  1. fresh shelled peas, blanched and set aside
  2. beet greens, torn and set aside
  3. spinach, torn and set aside
  4. roasted red pepper (freshly done or use from jar if you want it fast and easy), sliced and set aside.
  5. grated or shaved parmesan cheese, set aside.
  6. keep at the ready a bottle of truffle oil for a last minute splash.
  • cook pasta (choose your favourite shape) in well-salted water.  Time the cooking to about one minute shorter than al dente instructions because you will finish cooking the pasta in the pan sauce.
  • reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy, salty pasta cooking water to use as part of pan sauce.
  • meantime, using regular olive oil, pan fry one minced clove of garlic, adding beet and spinach greens, and peas.
  • add red peppers.
  • add a splash or two of old, sweet balsamic vinegar, and let evaporate for a few seconds in the hot pan.
  • add 1/2 cut of reserved pasta cooking water.
  • dissolve tomato paste into liquid.
  • add pasta to the wet pan and allow to cook and absorb liquid for a couple of minutes.
  • add your parmesan to the pan.
  • finally, splash with truffle oil (approximately a tablespoon. A little goes a long way, and you don’t want to overpower the finished dish).
  • mix and plate it up.

P.S. Aside from wine, an ideal pairing is music from The National’s High Violet: ‘Wake Up Your Saints’