Land and Sea will feature foragers this Sunday.
Not surprising, as we embrace our roots and delight in the inspirations of local ingredients to see that wild food foraging is on the upswing. But long before “locavore” became part of our foodie vernacular, the good folks at Trout Point Lodge were doing foraging up right.
One of my favourite cookbooks of all time, the Trout Point Lodge cookbook (Random House, 2004) has a section devoted to Wild Foods, celebrating the gifts of field and stream with innovative recipes like Lime-Grilled Cattail Root and Bullrush Blinis.
Back in 2004, I reviewed this cookbook for the Coast, and here is part of what I wrote:
Trout Point Lodge, one of Nova Scotia’s best kept secrets, is an exclusive retreat and cooking school located at the juncture of the Tusket and Napier Rivers, northeast of Yarmouth. Daniel G. Abel, Charles Leary and Vaughn Perret, celebrated owners of New Orlean’s Chicory Farm, had taken a trip to Nova Scotia to find their Acadian culinary roots and were so impressed by the rural wilderness, they built the lodge. The Trout Point Lodge Cookbook (Random House) is a culmination of the history and recipes surrounding the lodge; the cuisine the owners call “New World Creole.” The book is incredible—the beautiful photography really captures the rustic feel of the lodge and dishes prepared. Recipes feature local produce, seafood and game, and are well laid-out and easy to follow. A section on gathering less common local ingredients such as sea beans and bulrushes is particularly interesting. Dishes like finnan haddie jambalaya combine local flavour with Acadian cousin Cajun cuisine, with great success. Smoked fish is integral in Nova Scotia cuisine, and at Trout Point the chefs smoke their own. Instructions for smoking your own seafood are included; although building a smoker is not practical for many of us, it’s interesting to know the details of the process. I especially like the bread section, with detailed instructions on kneading and yeast; I tried the rosemary ciabatta and was quite pleased with the results. In fact, I enjoyed all of the trial recipes, and I’m sure this book will quickly become dog-eared as I find some new favourites. The Trout Point Lodge Cookbook is not only a lovely collection of recipes; it’s a fascinating look into a corner of Nova Scotia’s culinary history. If you’re looking for a special gift for the cook in your life, this book is it.
Almost a decade later, it’s apparent that while the Lodge is no longer a secret (accolades too numerous to mention), everything else I wrote holds true: the book has become a dog-eared favourite as I predicted, the dishes are still fabulous, and it’s become more relevant than ever.
Lunch with a friend today yielded a take-home treat of these fabulous date squares. During our chat, she asked me if there what the difference was between “Date” squares, and “Matrimonial” squares. I suppose after you’ve had enough date squares you make a commitment and have the matrimonial squares?
But, it had me stumped–I’d never heard the term “matrimonial” squares before. Turns out, that’s what date squares are called in Western Canada. I don’t know how far west you have to go, mind you. Perhaps on the provincial border of Ontario-Manitoba?
Or really west? Like Alberta?
I set out to find some information on this matrimonial square, such as where the name comes from. To be sure, it’s a nice square, but I don’t know if it’s worthy of being “matrimonial”. Date, yes, one of those casual coffee dates more so than a third or fourth dinner date. It’s not a one night stand square, like a Nanaimo bar, that is gobbled up quickly and leaves the gobbler with sugar high crash headache–the walk of shame for square eaters. But nor is it quite up there with a brownie–now THAT’S a square I could marry (if I wasn’t already engaged to that chowder, ranch dressing, and roesti potato).
First turning to that infallible bastion of info, the Wikipedia, I discover it’s not called matrimonial square but rather, matrimonial “cake”. Okay then.
Further perusal of about a gazillion other sites turned up the same general story:
*”Western” Canada is the Prairies
*The name is from the 1930′s
*The smooth and crumbly textures of the square represent the contrast in good times and bad in a marriage
(Hmmmm…..I wonder if there are any other foods named thusly?)
And there you have it. Whether you want to call it date, matrimonial, or one night stand, here’s a classic recipe for these delightfully old-fashioned squares.
I’d heard about this chowder. I’d been waiting to try it for a very long time, and finally, unexpectedly, tonight it lay before me on the table. Take a good look. What do you see? Fresh clams, plump mussels, textbook seared scallops. Under that lovely pink salmon filet lies a generous piece of haddock. Lean over the bowl, and sniff. A slight brininess, nothing strong or overpoweringly fishy, indicative of very fresh seafood. Dip your spoon into the bowl and push it against the broth. Silky smooth texture, consistency perfect.
Seduced by its beauty, enthralled by the promise of delights to come, time to taste. Raise your spoon, and take the first tentative sip. It’s so unbelievably good. That hint of brine, that delicate fish flavour, that underlying creamy taste serves to cast off inhibitions and lead to unbridled devouring, until the chowder is spent and all that’s left is a empty clam shell or two. This is, without a doubt, the best chowder I have ever eaten (and I wrote the book on chowder–or at least, a book on chowder).
So, aside from being exceptional, what is different about this one? It looks like classic seafood chowder. It smells and tastes like any seafood chowder.
But this chowder is different. Prepared by Chef Steve Galvin at elements on hollis, and not on the menu, this chowder has a secret.
Would you believe me if I told you what it is?
So the power is out, but rather than break my NaBloPo month streak, so near the end, I’m posting quickly from my phone.
We’ve just finished supper and I would kill for a cup of tea. If it wasn’t a deluge outside, with wickedly high winds, we might press the BBQ into service.
That’s what we did during the 4 days of Hurricane Juan, when the neighbors took turns hosting BBQ meals and it was all well and good because the weather was eerily mild. My contribution was couscous and Moroccan chicken, I was going through a North African cooking phase. Not so much fun tonight.
Wonder how much Jaeger is in the freezer?
The next stop of the Armchair Culinary tour was to have taken us to Robinson Crusoe island, but cold weather and driving rain diverted my attention. Because Robinson Crusoe Island is a territory of Chile, and I was looking for something warm and comforting for supper in this miserable weather, so Chile became chili and here we are.
Thing is, I love chili, and I love the idea of making it, but I never like the taste of my own chili. It’s either too spicy, or too bland, or too salty.
The best chili I’ve eaten was found last fall during our visit to Baltimore. A day trip to Gettysburg led to grabbing a bite of lunch in the park’s restaurant, and there was an astonishing good chili, with fabulous cornbread, not to mention a great peach cobbler–not a venue you’d expect great food at, but there it was. So good, I took a picture.
Now, this chili may come in to their cafeteria frozen, simply reheated for visitors, or it may be from scratch, I don’t know (I should have asked).
It had the perfect bean to meat ratio, well balanced seasoning, and just the perfect heat.
I can find neither a recipe nor a place here in Halifax that makes a chili that I enjoyed as much as this one–any and all suggestions are welcome!