20th edition of Travel and Vacation show gives gastronomes pleasant memories to digest
APR 07 14 – 1:40 PM — Those with a taste for adventure at home and abroad invariably count their experiences with food and drink among the most vivid memories — right up there with the sites and sounds, no matter how exotic the destination.
And the great news is, the 20th edition of the ever-popular Ottawa Travel and Vacation Show, which wound up Sunday at the Ottawa Convention Centre, offered plenty to savour through no fewer than nine cooking demonstrations with eight chefs over both days, which I had the privilege to emcee on the culinary stage.
A few of their dishes were particularly memorable, and while I can’t really share each and every recipe I have selected a handful of standouts to post here in two parts. This is the first installment, while I will follow-up with the second in a few days.
Right, TV chef Christine Cushing on stage at the Ottawa Travel Show on Saturday with Greece ambassador Eleftherios Anghelopoulos explain the nuances of fine Greek olive oil.
Each year the travel show attracts more than 17,000 visitors with some 200 booths, cooking demonstration and seminars representing more than 50 countries from Europe, Asia, the Pacific, Caribbean, North and South America spread over 6,000 square feet of convention floor space. As organizer Halina Player of Player Exposition puts it, food continues to play an important role at the show if only because “people want to taste and sample.
“It’s part of the memories you take away when you travel.”
Right off the top, celebrity TV chef and cookbook author Christine Cushing with Elizabeth Kilvert of The Unrefined Olive shop in the Glebe presented an educational chat about, yes, olive oil, with Greece ambassador Eleftherios Anghelopoulos. “While I was born in Greece, I came to Canada before I was a year old,” Cushing says.
“I like to say I was made in Greece, but assembled in Canada.”
Cushing’s recipe, here, for Barley and Fennel Pilaf and Shrimp with Assyrtiko Wine and Greek Saffron is a standout. (I had no idea Greece produces premium saffron, in addition to its excellent olive oil.)
Matt Boland, executive chef with Divi Resorts in the Caribbean, returned for the second year to talk up the virtues of Aruba — where the temperature year-round varies only slightly at about 30°C, and it almost-never rains. He presented a delicious and ridiculously simple recipe for Shrimp and Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Fritters, but what really caught my imagination was his delicious Pumpkin Coconut Lemongrass Ginger Soup, which I’m posting here as well.
Later this week I’ll post three more recipes. From The 3 Greek Sisters — Betty, Eleni and Samantha Bakopoulos — you can try their Timeless Greek Potato Bean Salad that delivers almost buttery richness by using premium Greek olive oil.
To get us in the mood for spring — yes, it really is coming — John Morris, executive chef at Le Café at the National Arts Centre presents a nuanced Spring Pea Risotto with Shaved Pecorino Cheese embellished with truffle-infused oil and green pea shoots. And Food writer, blogger and cookbook author Peter Minaki or www.kalofagas.ca is sharing his secrets to Calamari with Grape Leaf Chimichurri.
Chef Simon Bell at Oz Kafé on Elgin Street wowed us with his “Seoul” Food — a simple Korean meal of marinaded hangar steak with kimchi. (That recipe has been published already in another forum.)
Oh my, let’s dig in.
Above, folks just can’t seem to get enough treats to taste.
Christine Cushing’s Sautéed Shrimp with Barley and Fennel Pilaf
Serves 4 to 6
For the shrimp:
– 8 ounces (225 g) raw medium-size shrimp, shelled and deveined
– Grated zest, 1 lemon
– Sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste
– 3 tablespoons (50 mL) olive oil
– Pinch, Greek saffron steeped in a splash of warm water
– 1/4 cup (50 mL) Assyrtiko dry white wine
– 6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
– Chopped fresh dill, to garnish
For the barley pilaf:
– 2 tablespoons (25 mL) Greek extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 1 small carrot, diced
– 1/2 head fennel, core removed and diced
– 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 cup (250 mL) pearl barley, rinsed and drained
– 1/4 cup (50 mL) dry black currants
– 3 whole sprigs fresh thyme
– 1 sprig fresh rosemary
– 1 bay leaf
– 3 cups (750 mL) chicken broth
– Sea salt and freshly crack pepper, to taste
– Several sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to garnish
1. For the shrimp, in a medium bowl combine shrimp, lemon zest, salt and pepper and toss to coat well. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil and, when hot, add shrimp mixture and toss rapidly 1 to 2 minutes, just until shrimp turns pink.
2. Add steeped saffron with the water, white wine, capers and tomatoes. Toss a further minute or two to fully cook shrimp and reduce liquid slightly. Sprinkle with fresh dill and adjust salt, pepper, to taste. Serve with pilaf.
3. To make the pilaf, heat olive oil in medium pot on medium heat. Add onion, carrot, fennel and sauté until softened and golden, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and barley and cook 1 minute, just to toast.
4. Add currants, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, broth and season with salt, pepper. Bring to a boil and stir; cover and simmer on low heat 35 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and stir in chopped parsley.
Matt Boland’s Pumpkin Coconut Lemongrass Ginger Soup
Makes about 8 cups (2 L)
– 1 generous tablespoon (20 mL) butter
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 1 leek, white part only, washed and sliced thin
– 2 tablespoons (25 mL) chopped lemongrass, bottom part only
– 1 tablespoon (15 mL) spicy curry paste
– 3 cups (750 mL) chicken stock
– 1 can (14 oz/400 mL) coconut milk
– 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
– 4 cups (1 L) roasted pumpkin flesh (may substitute buttercup or acorn squash), cubed
– Juice, 2 lemons or limes
– 1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream
– Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1. In a large frypan, melt butter on medium-high heat and sauté onion, leek, lemongrass, ginger until onion is translucent but not browned. Add curry paste and cook a few minutes.
2. Add stock, coconut milk, sweet potato, pumpkin and simmer until sweet potatoes are cooked through.
3. Working in batches if necessary, in a blender purée the mixture and transfer to clean pot. Add lemon or lime juice and serve, each serving topped with a dollop of sour cream and chopped cilantro garnish.