Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Riverwalk in Muskoka: Farm to Table Cuisine

Located in an historic mill overlooking the picturesque Muskoka River Falls in the heart of Bracebridge, Riverwalk Restaurant sources its ingredients locally, infusing the beauty of seasonal flavours in every dish they serve — from field to fork. Born and raised in Vancouver, Chef David Friesen is also a proud supporter of Savour Muskoka, which promotes the use of ingredients grown or produced in the area. We have a wonderful farming community up here,” he says. “There are a lot of smaller farms that do most of the growing in the region, whether it’s agriculture or livestock. But the farmers play to Mother Nature, so you never know what’s going to happen or what produce you’ll get.” Opened in 2001, Riverwalk's Mediterranean inspired dining room, animated with the bright, bold and beautiful paintings of renowned Muskoka artist Wendy Moses, also features a stunning outdoor terrace with breathtaking views of the cascading falls. The restaurant's open kitchen allows diners a full view of dishes as they are being prepared while they peruse chef Friesen's seasonally changing menu of gourmet dishes, such as house marinated salmon and free-range Muskoka chicken to hand-rolled gnocchi and Riverwalk's sensational house-made wild mushroom paté, in addition to a selection of creative vegetarian and vegan options. Locally sourced and proudly Muskoka grown, there’s always a delicious reason to visit Riverwalk.

The bright charming interior of Riverwalk, whose history dates back to the late 1880's when it was originally a working mill named Bird's Woolen Mill Company

Selection of Wendy Moses paintings brighten the walls at Riverwalk

Riverwalk's menu features locally sourced ingredients for fresh farm to table cuisine

Stylish hammered Knot cutlery

Pinot Grigio, Tiefenbrunner, Italy, 2012

2019 Merlot, Christian Moueix, Bordeaux, France

Vegetarian Carrot Soup with spiced oil and fresh herb garnish

Onion Confit and Goat Cheese Frittata served with mixed greens, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette

Chef David Friesen

Outdoor dining on Riverwalk's deck which overlook's the Muskoka Falls in Bracebridge

View of the brace bridge from Riverwalk's outdoor deck 

Muskoka-Grown Summer Berry Shortcakes
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy of Chef David Friesen

6 cups fresh berries, cleaned and sliced: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp Grand Marnier

2 cups all purpose flour 3 tbsp sugar
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1⁄4 lb butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1⁄2 cup + 1 tbsp half-and-half cream
1 egg white
2 tbsp sugar

Whipped Cream:
2 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract

In a nonreactive bowl mash 2 cups of the berries with sugar and Grand Marner. Add the remaining berries and allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

In a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the butter cubes and with quick 1-second pulses, process until a coarse meal texture is achieved. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the egg and cream into the flour mixture and combine with a rubber spatula until large clumps form. Place the entire mixture onto a work surface and lightly knead until it comes together, being careful not to overwork the dough. Pat the dough into a 9x6 inch rectangle. Flour a 3-inch biscuit cutter and cut out 6 rounds then place onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Brush tops with egg whites and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown then allow to cool for 10 minutes. Whip the  cream to soft peaks then add sugar and vanilla, and continue whipping until firm peaks form.

To serve, split each biscuit in half horizontally. Place the bottom of biscuit on a plate and divide the berries among the plates. Place a dollop of whipped cream on the berries and top with biscuit top.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuna Salad with Avocado, Sprouts & Hard Boiled Eggs

Low calorie, low carb and a great source of Omega-3, this simple, light and delicious Tuna Salad recipe makes an easy weekday dinner paired with sliced avocado, hard boiled eggs and some fresh tomatoes. Topped with a mound of flavourful onion sprouts and dressed with a tangy vinaigrette, summertime dining doesn't get any easier, healthier or more satisfying.

Tuna Salad with Avocado, Sprouts & Hard Boiled Eggs
Serves 2

10 oz (2 small cans) canned tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 cup diced English cucumber
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 oz mixed greens
2 large eggs, hard boiled, peeled and halved
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
6 grape tomatoes, halved
1 package onion sprouts, for garnish
Maldon salt and fresh cracked black pepper

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, minced
Fresh cracked black pepper and salt, to taste

Add the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon and minced garlic together in a small bowl and whisk until well combined. Season with fresh cracked black pepper and salt to taste. Combine tuna, diced cucumber, green onions, lemon juice, zest, dill, mayonnaise, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir well. Toss the mixed greens with some vinaigrette to taste, then arrange on 2 plates and top with a generous scoop of the tuna mixture. Top with a handful of onion sprouts and garnish with sliced avocado, tomatoes and hard boiled eggs. Season with Maldon salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste and drizzle with more vinaigrette if needed. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Radish, Cucumber & Celery Salad with Arugula & Feta

Crunchy, colourful and low cal, this refreshing Radish, Cucumber & Celery Salad with peppery arugula and tangy Greek feta is a light and healthy summer dish that can be put together in a matter of minutes. Add some fresh herbs such as dill, basil, mint or tarragon and a handful of walnuts, and you also have a dish similar to Sabzi Khordan or Kanachia common side dish in Iranian and Armenian cuisines, which may be served with any meal often taking the place of a salad. Drizzled with a little olive oil, a dash of Maldon salt and served with some hot, crispy, flat Persian flatbreads, this is a healthy, light and delicious starter with absolutely no cooking involved — what could be better on a hot summer day.

Radish, Cucumber & Celery Salad with Arugula & Feta
Serves 2

1/4 English cucumber, cut into 4 lengthwise then chopped
8 radishes, washed and chastely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely sliced on a diagonal
1 handful wild arugula
1 handful chopped fresh dill
2 oz fresh Greek feat, crumbled
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp Maldon salt
1/4 cup walnuts, optional

Arrange all the chopped vegetables and fresh herbs in a decorative bowl or platter then top with crumbled feta and a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with a sprinkle of Maldon salt and serve with on it's own or with a flatbread of your choice.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Luma: Seasonally Inspired Canadian Artisanal Cuisine

Located on the second floor of the TIFF Bell Lightbox in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District with its floor-to-ceiling windows and outstanding views of King Street West, Luma pays homage to Toronto’s rich, cultural landscape with a menu featuring Canadian artisanal cuisine made with the finest local and regional ingredients. Chef Michael Wilson’s seasonal menu showcases fresh, artfully prepared dishes, which feature the finest ingredients and reflect our nation’s diversity, with dishes such as Quebec Lau Lau Pork Chop with mustard greens, wild rice, edamame and pineapple; Newmarket Smoked King Cole Duck Breast, with rhubarb, shallots, spinach and sesame scallion pancake; and East Coast Scallops with bacon polenta, tomato, fennel, sorrel and foraged vegetable pesto. For theatre-goers, Luma also offers a Curtain Call prix-fixe and Small Bites menu for guests on the go. Warm and inviting, the dining room and bar, designed with rich woods, leather and stone, and friendly professional staff, make Luma a delicious dining option before heading out for a concert at Roy Thomson Hall or latest theatre production at The Princess of Wales.

The long marble bar at Luma

French 75 made with Champagne, lemon juice, splash of gin, and dash of simple syrup
garnished with a curl of lemon rind

Our bartender stirring my husband's Martini before pouring it into the ice-chilled glass

Warm and inviting, the dining room is designed with rich woods, leather and stone

The Curtain Call menu for those catching a show

House baked bread and whipped butter with a drizzle of truffle honey

Beet Salad with mustard seeds, watercress, shaved mountain oak gold cheese 
and caraway dressing

Vegetarian Asparagus and Pea Soup with toasted almonds

Hamachi Crudo with coconut, citrus, ginger, cilantro, red chilies and taro

Seared Trout with lyonnaise potatoes, rapini, fennel and salsa verde

Seared Ahi Tuna with red rice, fiddleheads, oyster mushroom, mustard greens and pea shoots

Ontario Rack of Lamb with roasted carrots, lentils, carrot top pesto, 
grilled scallions and black garlic

Pumpkin & Fire-Roasted Chestnut Rigatoni 
Serves 4-6
Recipe courtesy of Chef Michael Wilson

1 lb rigatoni 
2 1/2 cups of chestnuts, scored 
1 pumpkin
2 cups unsalted butter, browned
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 shallot, minced
6 garlic cloves, roasted
1 bunch of sage, chopped
2 cups grated Manchego cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and reserve. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Score the chestnuts with a sharp knife and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. While the chestnuts are still hot, peel, chop and set aside. 

Peel the pumpkin, cut in half and scoop out the seeds, then dice into quarter-inch cubes. Place the butter into a pot and turn on high heat. The butter will melt and begin to foam. As the bubbles lessen, remove from the heat and add one tablespoon of sherry vinegar, then cool and reserve. 

In a saucepan on medium heat, add oil and roasted diced pumpkin. Once it starts to get colour, reduce heat. Add the shallot, garlic and sage. Return the pasta to water to reheat. Add the pasta and a splash of pasta water to the saucepan. Add chestnuts, one tablespoon of sherry vinegar, brown butter and season to taste. Plate and garnish with shaved Manchego cheese and chopped sage.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Oven Grilled Maple-Soy-Sesame Salmon & Asparagus

Succulent, moist and enormously flavourful, Salmon is also one of the most nutrient rich and versatile fish around. It's also one of the healthiest. Low in saturated fat and calories, but high in protein and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, Salmon is a near perfect food — in my mind anyway. One of my favourite marinades features pure Canadian maple syrup, a natural sweetener that is more nutritious and healthier than sugar, plus Tamari, which has a richer, smoother, more complex flavour than ordinary soy sauce, and fragrant nutty sesame oil. Sprinkled with a flurry of sesame seeds before grilling or baking with a bunch of trimmed asparagus, this is a dish I could happily eat every day of the week.

Grilled Salmon with Maple Syrup, Soy and Sesame Oil Marinade
Serves 2

4 6-oz salmon fillets, preferably with skin on
2 tbsp Canadian maple syrup
1 tbsp Tamari soy sauce 
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sesame seeds, for garnish
1 bunch of asparagus, with ends trimmed

Combine the maple syrup, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small baking dish, then add the salmon, turning it well in the marinade, then set skin side down and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

About 15 minutes before you’re ready to grill, remove the salmon from the fridge to let it come to room temperature. Lay the asparagus on plate and toss  with a little olive oil and season with Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. 

To cook the salmon indoors, place the salmon and asparagus on a foil lined baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 400°F oven for 15-18 minutes, until the salmon and asparagus are just cooked through. 

To grill the salmon outdoors, preheat the barbecue to medium-high and cook the salmon, skin side down along with the asparagus for  8 to 10 minutes, or to your preference. To serve, transfer the asparagus to warmed dinner plates, top with the salmon and drizzle with extra marinade if desired.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rosemary & Garlic Grilled Lamb Chops on Arugula

A luscious lean New Zealand Rack of Lamb must be one of the most delectable cuts of meat, and when sliced into single or double chops and marinated in a fragrant elixir of fresh rosemary, pungent garlic, lemon zest and pungent olive oil, the flavours can be intoxicating. Coarsely blended together in a food processor to produce a robust paste, the marinade is simply massaged into the lamb chops and then simply abandoned for an hour or so, to work it's magic. Grilled outdoors for 4 to 5 minutes per side for the perfect pink chop, the lamb becomes meltingly tender and infused with fabulous flavours. Set over a bed of wild peppery arugula with steamed sugar snap peas, fresh basil and plump Campari tomatoes, this is a simple, healthy and delicious springtime feast.

Rosemary & Garlic Grilled Lamb Chops on Arugula  
Serves 2

1 New Zealand rack of lamb, cut into single chops
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, zested
1 tsp Maldon sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 large radishes, finely sliced
8 basil leaves, julienned
6 Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
4 Campari tomatoes, halved
16 sugarsnap peas, trimmed and steamed
1 oz shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced, about 1 tablespoon
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the garlic, rosemary, olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl or food processor to make a thick marinade, then pour over the lamb, massaging it in well on both sides to thoroughly to coat the meat all over. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or even overnight for maximum flavour.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium high. When hot, grill the lamb about 2-3 minutes per side, so that the lamb is cooked through but still pink on the inside. 

While the lamb is resting, whisk together the olive oil with the lemon juice and season to taste with Maldon salt and pepper. Scatter the arugula and chickpeas on a decorative platter and toss gently to coat with the dressing. To serve, arrange the lamb chop over the greens and garnish with the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Chicken Curry with Sweet Potato, Cauliflower & Peas

Simple and wonderfully delicious, this flavourful Chicken Curry with sweet potatoes, cauliflower, spinach and green peas is rich and satisfying, easy to prepare and can all be prepped ahead of time. The luscious coconut milk and smooth tomato purée brings the curry together, mellowing and integrating the spices while adding a light sweetness that pairs beautifully with the sweet potato, cauliflower and leafy green baby spinach. Served with Basmati rice and some oven-warmed naan if you want to indulge in a little gluten on the side, this is a healthy, nutritional and delicious curry anytime of the year.

Chicken Curry with Sweet Potato, Cauliflower & Peas
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Abbey's Kitchen

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil 
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs fat trimmed
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 onion finely diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp ginger grated
2 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried coriander
1 pinch of cayenne
3 cups tomato passata
1 large sweet potato, peeled and finely diced
13 oz can coconut milk
1 small head cauliflower cut into small florets
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup chopped cilantro, as garnish

Preheat a large nonstick frying pan over medium high heat and add the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and sear on both sides until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Once golden brown, transfer to a plate and set aside. Return the pan to medium heat and add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 6-8 minutes. Add in the garlic, ginger, curry, coriander, cumin and cayenne and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 

Then add in the tomato purée and the sweet potatoes, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the sweet potato pieces begin to soften. Pour in the coconut milk, and then nestle in the chicken thighs and cauliflower. Cover the pan with a lid and cook until the cauliflower and sweet potato softens, and the chicken thighs are cooked, about 10-15 minutes. 

Remove the lid and stir in the spinach and peas. Serve immediately, or allow to simmer covered on low heat for 15-20 minutes, adding a little water to loosen the sauce if desired. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve over brown or basmati rice and warm naan. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Planta: Globally Inspired Plant-Based Cuisine

Chase Hospitality Group's latest venture Planta, opened last autumn in the space previously occupied by Pangea at Bay and Bloor, partnering with Chef David Lee to fill a void in Toronto's market of upscale, full service, plant-based dining options. The restaurant’s vision was to celebrate innovative cuisine in a beautiful environment without the use of any animal products. Planta is not merely vegetarian — it is full-fledged, all-out, animal-product-free vegan. One of their suppliers is 100km Foods, a local, sustainable food distribution company that delivers produce daily, getting produce from the field to their kitchen within 24 hours. The restaurant also decided to dedicate much of the design to all things green and leafy. Inside the stylish 5,000 square foot space, all the interiors were handled by East Studio and owner, Steven Salm. Brightened up by skylights, the soaring space features checkerboard floors, comfy seating, custom-designed banana leaf wallpaper designed by Candice Kaye and grand green leaf wall mural by Tisha Miles, while one of the walls is verdantly adorned with pockets of greenery and a singular banana tree reigns serenely over this indoor oasis.

Planta’s globally-inspired vegan menu features a version of Hawaiian Poke Salad which is made with compressed watermelon standing in for marinated tuna; the starring ingredient in the Crab Cakes is deliciously convincing hearts of palm; and even the Vegetarian Lasagna forgoes dairy-enriched béchamel or even a sprinkle of cheese in favour of a house-made cashew crema and nut-based faux-ricotta. But one of the most loved and swooned over dishes is their Planta Burger, a fully loaded vegetable burger piled with vegan bacon, queso, pickles, and tomatillo mayo — a carnivore's delight without the meat. And although wheat-based items like this are served, they do have many gluten-free options on the menu. With dishes inspired by cuisines from around the world, the restaurant is opened daily for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. "The restaurant’s busy with guests who’ve been lifelong vegetarians to guest who have never gone a day without meat," chef Lee has said about Planta. "People are excited to try something new."

Located on Bay above Bloor, Planta opened in September 2016

Planta Lunch Menu features totally plant-based dishes

Planta Cocktail Menu of non-alcoholic juices

Turmeric Lemonade with organic cold pressed turmeric, lemon, black pepper and agave

Pecorino from Le Marche by the glass 

Roasted Beets with avocado dill crema, coconut bacon, shaved cucumber and arugula

Sweet Mess Tacos with black beans, pickled cabbage, chipotle mayo, guacamole, corn nuts and cilantro

Fried Kimchi Dumplings with hot chili soy herb oil

Coconut Ceviche with avocado, corn nuts, lime and tortilla chips

Crab Cakes made with hearts of palm, spinach, coconut milk and warm spices

Curry Hot Pot with coconut, turmeric, lemongrass broth, taro root, black rice, kaffir lime leaf, 
bok choy and shiitake mushrooms

Chopped Salad with sprouted mung beans, cucumber, peppers, avocado, pea shoots, 
lemon and creamy jalapeño dressing

The Planta Burger fully loaded with queso, mushroom bacon and pickles with tomatillo ketchup
and spiced fries

Planta's meat-free burger made with black beans and mushrooms

Chef David Lee (R) and and CHG president Steven Salm (L)

Planta Chocolate Chip & Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 16 cookies
Recipe courtesy of Chef David Lee

2 tbsp flax with 1 cup warm water (flax egg)
3/4 cup coconut oil
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup flour
2 cup rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine the ground flax seeds with warm water and set aside. Add coconut oil, peanut butter, and vanilla extract to a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sugars, baking soda and powder, salt, flour, cocoa and oats. Add the flax egg into the wet mixture and then combine everything together. Mix in your chocolate chips and portion into 3-4 ounce balls by rolling the dough between your hands or using a small ice cream scoop. Arrange the balls with two inches between each on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes.

Spiced Roasted Heirloom Carrots 
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef David Lee

1 bunch heirloom carrots, medium size 
2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
handful of roughly chopped cilantro
1 tbsp pepitas 

Wash, peel and cut off the ends of the carrots then lay them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil over the carrots and sprinkle the cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper over top. Mix well to ensure carrots are coated. Roast at 350°F for 40-50 minutes, until carrots are soft and cooked through. Garnish with fresh cilantro and pipitas.