Category Archives: Gourmet Cooking

Simple Garlic Clams and Breadcrumb Pasta

It was on a night while crewing on a boat for four days that my inspiration for this dish happened. We had limited provisions on board and I was craving some comfort food. I managed to rummage up some pasta, olive oil, garlic powder, a tin of clams and some day-old bread. With these few simple ingredients we tucked in to a meal that was not only a satisfying carb fest, but also a delicious combination of textures and garlickiness. To what did we owe this texture? Breadcrumbs! Breadcrumbs are a fantastic and under-appreciated addition to pastas that I highly recommend.


Simple Garlic Clams and Breadcrumb Pasta

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound linguini
2 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 tin or 2 pounds pasta clams
pinch crushed red chili flakes
salt and pepper
1/2 cup unseasoned Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped



1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add one tablespoon salt and cook until al dente, about eight minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, add one tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil and warm over medium heat. Once hot, add half the garlic and fry until just golden, about one minute. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden, about two minutes. Transfer breadcrumbs to a plate and set aside.
3. Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, remaining garlic and chili flakes, and stir for one minute. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for five minutes until they begin to burst.
4. Add the clams and one cup of the starchy pasta water. Cover the skillet and cook until the clams open, about five minutes.
5. Drain the pasta and stir into the clams. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Immediately before serving, sprinkle with fresh parsley and toasted breadcrumbs.

amanda riva Amanda Riva is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients. 

Amanda Riva is part of the Blog Network family.

Bourbon Soaked Cherries with Vanilla Ice Cream

This dessert is simple and quick to make, and the combination of smooth vanilla ice cream topped with tender, bourbon-spiked cherries is to die for. Enjoy this boozy treat outside during those hot summer months, after a long day at work.

Cherries Jubilee

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 6

1 pound pitted sweet cherries, halved
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 fluid ounce bourbon
pinch of kosher salt
1 pint vanilla bean ice cream

1. In a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, combine the cherries, brown sugar, and unsalted butter. Cook gently until the butter and sugar have melted and the cherries begin to release some of their juice. Continue to stir until the mixture is bubbling gently, about five minutes.
2. Stir in the bourbon and kosher salt. Cook for an additional five minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in lemon juice to taste and let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.
4. Divide ice cream between six bowls and top with a cherry mixture.

amanda riva Amanda Riva is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients. 

Amanda Riva is part of the Blog Network family.

No-Bake Gingerbread Eggnog Tarts

Left over eggnog? No problem. Make this gingerbread, no-bake eggnog custard tart for a post-holiday treat the whole family will enjoy.


Eggnog Gingerbread Tarts


Gingerbread Sable Tarts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
3 tsp ground ginger (adjust spices based on your personal preference)
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp dark molasses
Raw rice or beans for weighting the crust

Eggnog Crème Froid (No-bake custard)
1 cup egg nog
1 cup heavy cream
7 egg yolks
180 grams of sugar or 1 1/4 cup
1 packet of gelatin, or 2 gelatin leaves
1/2 tsp salt

Optional: I dusted with cinnamon sugar and topped it off with chocolate covered crispy crunchies

Tart Shells


For the Gingerbread Tart Shells:
1. Using the paddle attachment, lightly cream together butter, sugar, vanilla and molasses in a mixing bowl.
2. Scrape down sides and add egg and mix until combined. Sift flour and spices together, and add to the mixture just until incorporated. Do not over mix or you will end up with a tough dough.Bring dough together on a lightly flour dusted surface. Divide the dough into two, shape into disks, and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least half hour before you move on to the next steps. You can freeze the dough for up to two months if you want to use it at a later time.
3. To roll out the dough: sandwich the dough between two pieces of parchment paper (or plastic wrap), and roll out to 1/8? thick. Make sure that your is rolled out enough to fit the size of your tart pan. The dough should be used as soon as it has been rolled out.
4. Mold your pastry into your tart pan and refrigerate– refrigerating the dough prior to baking guards against excessive shrinking during baking. Using a fork, gently prick the bottom of the dough. Be careful not to fully puncture the dough or else any fillings might leak through. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, while your oven preheats to 350’F.
5. Line tart with parchment paper (or cupcake liners if they fit), and fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove the shells from the oven, allow to cool for 3-5 minutes and remove the parchment paper and beans. Return to the oven for 8-10 minutes to fully bake the base.


For the Eggnog No-Bake Filling:

Place the leaves of gelatin in a bowl of ice water, or bloom your powdered gelatin as per packet directions. Put off to the side for later use.
1. Warm cream and egg nog on low-medium heat. You want the cream hot, however, do not scald. Remove cream from stove.
2. In a separate bowl: mix together sugar and yolk. DO NOT mix sugar and yolk together until you are ready to use them. Slowly temper in the warm cream, adding the cream about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring consistently. Cook on stove top at low heat until candy thermometer reaches 66 degrees Celsius and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Make sure you are constantly stirring to avoid curdling the eggs. You don’t want to whisk too heavily because you’ll incorporate too many bubbles into the custard.
3. Take gelatin leaves out of water and wring the water out of them. Add the gelatin to the custard and mix slowly until they dissolve. Strain. Pour into tart shells. Allow about 2 hours for them to set. Decorate and embellish the tarts before serving.

Madalina Paul is the blogger behind Duhlicious, a food blog dedicated to creating and sharing unique and original recipes for great tasting food and featuring tutorials, food news, and culinary adventures.

Gratinée: Gluten-Free Blueberry Plum Crumble

This juicy blueberry plum crumble is gluten free. My blog, Gratinée, is a reflection of what I like to eat, but it’s certainly not what I eat every day – which definitely falls more in the domain of clean eating than comfort food. I use ingredients like almond meal and coconut sugar, but for the folks who want to stick by the regular pantry standbys, I also give you the regular way of making this classic dessert.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Plum Crumble with Almond Crunch


Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Serves: 4


2 cups blueberries
Approximately 10 plums, halved
2/3 cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar), divided
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup thick gluten free rolled oats
1/3 cup almond meal or gluten free all-purpose “flour” or (regular flour)
1/3 cup sliced almonds
3 ounces butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg



  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Combine blueberries and plums in a mixing bowl with ? cup coconut sugar and the lemon juice. Transfer to a 7-inch casserole, cast iron pan, or non-reactive baking pan.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine oats with the flour or almond meal, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  4. Add butter and work into the flour with fingers until well combined; incorporate almonds.
  5. Spoon evenly over blueberries and plums.
  6. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown.
  7. Serve with generous scoops of vanilla bean ice cream or whipping cream.


Darina Kopcok Darina Kopcok is a food writer and photographer based in Vancouver, BC. She writes the blog Gratinée, for which she also develops, styles and shoots each recipe. In addition to photographic training from Langara College, she holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia. She has a passion for Italian cuisine and French culinary technique.

Darina Kopcok is part of the Lifestyle Blog Network  family.



Guilty Kitchen: Swiss Chard Ravioli with Homemade Pasta

Homemade pasta. Not exactly one of the quick dinners I was imagining I would be making three weeks after the birth of my second child. But you know what? It’s not nearly as hard as you think it is.

Have you, like me, always wanted to make your own pasta to see what all the fuss is about? But you didn’t even want to try because you don’t have a pasta roller? Well I’m here to tell you that it is not needed. A heavy hand and a heavy rolling pin is all you need to be eating gourmet pastas every night of your life. Though I don’t recommend that, carbohydrates are evil, didn’t you know?

The stuffing is a product of what was freshest at the farmer’s market this weekend. Huge bunches of rainbow swiss chard just called out to me as we had planted numerous plants last year but decided not to this year. One year of swiss chard coming out my ears was enough, but I still love the stuff. Mushrooms were also looking good, and that last little bit of truffle oil in my cabinets was just screaming to be used here. What’s better than creamy mascarpone and truffle oil? Well, this pasta for one.

So stop procrastinating and do it already!

Basic Pasta

Yield: 2 pounds pasta
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 2-3 minutes


1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
6 large free range eggs



  1. In a large bowl combine flours and mix well.
  2. Create a well in the centre of the flour and crack eggs directly into it.
  3. Bring flour over eggs and begin to mix with your hands. This part is going to get messy, but just keep mixing.
  4. Continue to pat, punch, wrestle, mix, chat to and disagree with your dough until it becomes smooth and elastic.
  5. Allow to rest for 30 minutes-2 hours (under moist kitchen towel) before using.


Swiss Chard Ravioli Filling

Yield: Enough to fill approximately 40 raviolis
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes




2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, minced
1/4 small onion, minced
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
8 large leaves swiss chard, trimmed from stems
1/3 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated


  1. Roll up swiss chard leaves and slice across in thin strips.
  2. In a large sauté pan on medium heat, heat olive oil and add in garlic, mushrooms, onion and thyme. Sauté until just softened. Add swiss chard and continue to cook until all vegetables are cooked through.
  3. Stir in mascarpone and Parmesan and set aside.

Assembling your ravioli:

1. Cut dough into two pieces and roll out to an 1/8? thick on a heavily floured surface.
2. Using a ravioli cutter or small biscuit cutter (about 1 1/2?) cut out circles (squares could also be done freehand).
3. Fill raviolis with about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of filling in centre of circle. Wet edges of both circles and pinch edges together. Set aside in one layer on floured surface until ready to use.
4. Fill a large stock pot with water and season generously with salt and a small amount of oil. Bring to boil.
5. When all raviolis are filled and ready to cook drop them all into pot and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring thoroughly at beginning to prevent sticking.
6. Drain and plate, top with rosé sauce (recipe follows), a drizzle of truffle oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan.


Truffled Rosé Sauce (Creamy Tomato Sauce)

Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes



2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup mascarpone
3/4 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
fresh ground salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan for sprinkling
White truffle oil for drizzling


  1. In a small sauté pan, melt butter and continue to cook until it begins to brown slightly. Remove from heat and add oregano, cream and mascarpone striring until combined.
  2. Return to heat, add in tomatoes and salt and pepper. Continue to cook on low heat until sauce thickens slightly. Serve over pasta with a drizzle of truffle oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Elizabeth-Nyland-0012-2 Elizabeth Nyland, author behind “Cooking with Coconut Oil: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free Recipes for Good Living” and “Cooking with Avocados: Delicious Gluten-Free Recipes for Every Meal” is also a mother of two and is the blogger behind, a food, fitness and health blog that’s been going strong since 2009. You can find Elizabeth in her home gym lifting heavy things, in her kitchen cooking up new recipes or at the bakery down the street attempting to uncover the world’s best doughnut.

Elizabeth Nyland is part of the Lifestyle Blog Network  family.



Review of Charcutería: The Soul of Spain

Charcutería: The Soul of Spain explores the time-honoured Spanish culinary traditions of curing meat and fish.


Charcutería: The Soul of Spain by Jeffrey Weiss (foreword by James Beard award-winning chef José Andrés.)

Price: $49.95
Pages: 464
Availability: Major retailers

The Goods

Providing a comprehensive introduction to authentic Spanish butchering techniques with more than 100 recipes, this book aims to be the guide to Spanish cured meat traditions for both professional and hobbyist charcuterie enthusiasts. Jeffrey Weiss is an American chef hailing from California, and the recipes are presented in a manner that is accessible to those without knowledge of Spanish ingredients. Weiss celebrates the diverse foods and rich culture of Spain, and stays true to the traditions of cured meat.

North America is embracing the return of small-scale artisan traditions, and this is helping charcuterie gain its popularity. Until recently, the art of charcuteria was “underrepresented, misunderstood and largely unheard of,” in this part of the world.

Charcutería: The Soul of Spain is a thorough representation of the history of charcuteria and the evolution of ritual pig slaughters to industrialized charcuterie. A notable and informative section is chapter three: ‘Salt, Meat, Love and Time’. It explains Spanish-style butchery, which uses various methods and cuts.

Chapters Include

  • Chapter 1: Who’s Your Papi; Chulo?
  • Chapter 2: The Secreto Of The Secreto
  • Chapter 3: Salt, Meat, Love, And Time
  • Chapter 4: Salamueras y Salazones
  • Chapter 5: Adobos
  • Chapter 6: Escabeche
  • Chapter 7: Conservas y Confits
  • Chapter 8: Embuitdos
  • Chapter 9: Pâtés y Terrinas
  • Chapter 10: Guarniciónes y Salsas
  • Chapter 11: Postres y Licores
  • Purveyors and Other Cool People
  • Kitchen Lingo: A Glossary Of La Cocina Española
  • Knowledge Is Power: Where to Learn More About Charcuterie


What we Made

I chose to make Garbanzos Con Butifarra Negra (page 285), specifically because I had been to bar Pinoxta in the La Boquiera, Barcelona and had the pleasure of eating this dish—it was absolutely delicious!
For my own variation, I bought the blood sausage from a local butcher to save some time. The recipe itself was not that complicated and most of the ingredients were easy to find. The one ingredient I had to substitute was sherry, as the recommended brand is not available at the LCBO.


Final Thoughts

This book taught me a great deal about myself. First of all, I love cute illustrations with a lot of personality. Secondly, even though I am a die-hard, unapologetic, die-hard charcuterie fanatic, I really don’t enjoy making it (at least I thought I did, until now). Fans of this book can still lean on me for a good pickle to adorn their boards, but I likely will not be curing meats in the near future—curing meat takes up a lot of space, and my tiny condo kitchen doesn’t have much.

I found the recipes themselves to be somewhat difficult to follow. Within the list of ingredients there was often a reference to another recipe, from another page. This made it difficult to understand what was involved, without doing some flipping around. Having very little experience with Spanish cooking, I had to continuously look up ingredients as they were listed in Spanish only (a bracket with the English term ‘blood sausage’ would have been helpful). I also found it difficult to source some of the recommended ingredients in Toronto. In the end, the dish was tasty, but far too oily and in hindsight, I should have used half of the recommended oil.

Regardless, it was a nice read and was very educational. The breakdown of Spanish butchery alone is worth the purchase for any novice butcher.



People with basic to intermediate knowledge of sausage making, people who are not squeamish, those who want a glimpse into Spanish butchery and meat-curing culture, and anyone with enough kitchen space (only the bravest of condo-dwellers will be able to recreate most dishes).

Photos by Jason Kan

JenJennifer Myers Chua is an art director, Asian-food enthusiast, and all-around creative type. Obsessed with culinary pursuits and whitespace, Jennifer spends her days working as a freelance designer and contributing blogger. She spends her nights deconstructing recipes in her mostly all-white loft with her mostly all-white French bulldog. You can check out more of what she does at



Fennel and Black Olive Stuffed Leg of Lamb from The Hot Plate


Fennel and Black Olive Stuffed Leg of Lamb is the perfect dinner option for Easter dinner if you are serving a crowd. Get your butcher to butterfly a leg of lamb or buy a boneless, rolled leg of lamb from the supermarket. Cook up this meaty spring dish for your whole family for a successful Easter dinner.


Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serves: 6 to 8



4 lb (1.8 kg) boneless and butterflied leg of lamb

3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil, divided

1 bulb fennel, cored and finely chopped (about 3 1/2 cups)

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped thyme

1/4 cup (60 mL) white wine

1/4 cup (60 mL) chicken stock

1/3 cup (45 mL) black olives, chopped

1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped dried figs (about 4 to 5 figs)

1 cup (250 mL) breadcrumbs

1 tsp (5 mL) each salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fennel fronds

1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley

1 egg


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

2. Heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel, onion, garlic, anchovy and chopped thyme, cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until softened. Add wine and cook for 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Add chicken stock, olives and fig. Cook for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in bread crumbs. Season with 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper. Remove from heat; stir in fennel fronds and parsley. Let cool completely. Stir in egg. (Makes about 4 cups.)

3. Lay the lamb flat and pat dry with paper towels. Season with 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each the salt and pepper. Pat stuffing evenly over meat. Roll up the lamb tightly and tie with the butcher’s twine.

4. Rub outside of the lamb with the remaining olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 50 minutes or until internal temperature reaches for 145°F (63°C) for medium rare or cook until your preference of doneness. Tent with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

5. Remove string. Slice into thick slices and serve.



Amanda Riva is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.


Roasted Cornish Hens from The Hot Plate

From its crispy skin to tender meat, this succulent cornish hen recipe will roast perfectly every time.


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Serves: 6


1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 shallots, finely chopped, divided

1 tablespoon (15 mL) Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons (10 mL) honey

2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped tarragon

1 teaspoon (5 mL) each salt and freshly ground pepper, divided

3 Cornish hens

1/4 cup (60 mL) dry sherry

3/4 cup (175 mL) chicken stock

1/4 cup (60 mL) whipping cream (35%)

1 sprig tarragon, roughly chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

2. Flavoured butter: Combine the butter, 1 shallot, mustard, honey, tarragon and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper.

3. Remove the giblet and neck from each hen, reserve for another use or discard. With kitchen shears, cut each hen in half lengthwise. Loosen the skin from hens and stuff each hen half evenly with the flavoured butter. Season the hens with remaining salt and pepper.

4. Place the hens skin side up in a large roasting pan. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes or until the juices run clear when pierced from the thickest part of thigh. Transfer to a platter. Tent with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, set the roasting pan over medium heat. Add the remaining shallot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until softened. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the sherry and chicken stock; scraping up any of the brown bits. Cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Add cream; continue to cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir tarragon into sauce. Serve the sauce with the hens.




Amanda Riva is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.





Perfectly Seared Scallops from The Hot Plate

Seared Scallops
Scallops may seem intimidating but when you know what to do they’re actually quite simple to prepare.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4


1 lb (500 g) sea scallops, about 16 pieces

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp (30 mL) canola oil

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter


1. Remove the small side muscle from the scallop; discard. Pat dry well with paper towel. Season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-bottom skillet set over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the scallops to the pan without crowding.

3. Cook, without disturbing, for 2 minutes or until there is a 1/4-inch (5 mm) crust. Loosen from skillet and turn over. Cook for 1 minute or until browned on the outside but still translucent in the center.

Serve immediately.

Amanda Riva is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.




6 Tips for Photographing Your Food

6 Tips for Photographing Your Food

Top 6 Tips for Photographing Your Food

If you haven’t tuned in to Dine Out Vancouver‘s takeover of our Instagram feed, click over now to join in the fun! Then immediately sign up for the Food-tography Culinary Photography Tour (happening this week!) with Vancouver Photowalks‘ Suzanne Rushton. Before you hit the streets, here’s the inside scoop on mastering your foodie shoot. 

There is a reason Instagram is so popular and 80% of the photos are of delicious food! We all love food porn, and whether you’re shooting on a mobile or DSLR, these tips will help you keep your followers salivating.

1. Lighting
As photographers we’re always concerned with the light. Where is it, what’s the source, what direction is it coming from, how much of it is there? Generally speaking, more light is better. If it’s daytime, shoot by a window. Position yourself at the window looking inwards at the food so you are not facing your camera into the window. If it’s night, find a decent light source. More light is better than less, especially if we’re in a restaurant and only have our phones. Lately I have been using the flashlight from my mobile phone, or a friend’s phone, to light the food as I like, allowing for a brighter and sharper image. If it’s dark and you are using a flash, consider placing a napkin or other white film over your flash, to diffuse the light (similar to a studio softbox). This will create more natural looking light. Oh, and don’t forget to watch your shadow to make sure you’re not blocking the light.


2. Composition

Maybe we don’t need a glass or cutlery in the shot, or maybe it’s part of the shot. Check your composition and eliminate elements that don’t add to the final image. Move the item or move the camera. Try tilting your camera a bit to add a dimension of interest to the shot. Or, go the opposite direction and create symmetry. Try standing up and shooting from directly above your “subject” for the bird’s eye view perspective as well.

3. Get closer!
We want to isolate the food we are shooting and remove unnecessary “noise” from the background. Food is great, because it doesn’t mind if you’re in it’s personal space. Show us the warm and melted chocolate chips, or the freshly sprinkled basil on the oven-roasted pizza. Highlight the delicious details of your dish.


4. Use colour and unique surfaces

Background elements can make an image pop! If there is a colourful placemat, use it. If the table is a rustic wood, use that. If the surface is neutral, take the opportunity to zoom in more on the food you are capturing. The background can say something about the personality of the restaurant you are in. As a rule, it’s better to shoot MORE rather than less; you can always crop, but it’s impossible to add elements that weren’t captured!


5. Focus and depth of field
With both our phones and cameras, we can select what we want to be in focus. Generally we want the item closest to us to be sharp and the elements further away to be slightly blurry. This is called a shallow depth of field, and you will notice it in most food photography. The point of this is to draw attention to the most interesting part of the dish.


6. Timing
Shoot your food before you’ve eaten half of it! When we’re on the fly, it’s important to shoot right away so the food is at its freshest: still steaming with garnishes in place. Think like a sports photographer, and be prepared for the action. Cheese hardens, spinach wilts and meat juices stain plates, so anticipate the action and be prepared to act fast.

To summarize, as soon as your food comes, take it over to a window or the best light in the house. Remove the non-essential items, face into the restaurant with your back to the window, and take a few shots from a few different angles. Try focusing on different elements of the food. Don’t forget to upload your best image, and then sit back and enjoy your meal. Repeat with dessert!


Suzanne Rushton is the founder and principal photographer at Vancouver Photowalks. She is based in Vancouver and also owns Feeling Photography and Victoria Photowalks.



Prawn, Kale and Barley Risotto from Dan’s Good Side

prawn kale and barley risotto

Risotto is my go-to dinner on a fairly regular basis. It’s the kind of dish that you can make for 2, or 4, or even 8 people (pan size permitting) without a lot of stress. I’m also kind of a strange guy and like to eat cold food as a midnight snack, and I think risotto is particularly tasty fresh out of the fridge in the middle of the night. Hey, don’t knock it until you try it…

This dinner definitely falls under the category of ‘Hmm, what can I make with these leftover ingredients in my fridge?’. Since my love for kale seems to be undying this year, I happily tossed some into this dinner as well. Barley is a great substitute for arborio rice when it comes to risotto. Especially if risotto intimidates you, I find barley to be  way more forgiving. This was the first time I ever tried to put mascarpone cheese into the rice dish as well. It added a rich, creaminess that was pretty fantastic.

Serves: 4

Total cook time: 25 minutes


6 cups vegetable broth

1 cup half and half

1 yellow onion (diced)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1/4 cup white wine

2 cups uncooked barley

1 1/2 cups kale (stems removed, finely chopped)

1 lemon (zest and juice)

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

8 medium prawns (peeled and chopped)

1 tablespoon fresh dill

salt and pepper


1. Start off by heating the vegetable stock and cream together in a medium pot on medium-high heat. Once it begins to simmer, reduce to low heat to keep nice and hot.

2. Next, cook the garlic and onion down in a large pan on medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce to medium heat, add the barley to the pan, stir and let cook for another 2-3 minutes.

3. Now, ladle in 2 cups of the hot vegetable broth. Stir occasionally until most of the liquid has been absorbed, then add the chopped kale, lemon and cayenne to the pan as well as 2 more cups of broth. Continue to let cook, adding broth as needed and stirring regularly until the barley reaches an el dente texture.

4. Reduce to low heat and stir in the mascarpone, chopped prawns and dill. Let cook until prawns have cooked through, about 1 minute. Finally, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve!

Dan ClapsonDan Clapson
is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is
constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary
horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.







Lamb and Mint Cassoulet from The Hot Plate

lamb cassoulet

Cooking for one can seem intimidating. You can’t walk into a store and buy one scallion or exactly one sprig of mint. Everything is packaged for multiple uses or cooking for a family of four. Turns out that larger quantities can be beneficial for solo cooking. By creating easy one pot dishes like our cassoulet you’ll have ready to eat leftovers that will save you time, money and stress during the week.

Not a fan of eating the same thing for lunch and dinner every day? Not to worry. We love making bigger meals and then freezing them in individual portions. That way we can spread the love and enjoy all our favourites over the month instead of wasting unwanted leftovers.

We suggest buying disposable aluminum containers from the grocery store. Aluminum containers come in a variety of sizes and go from freezer to oven without mess or hassle. Bonus: they cost next to nothing, which means that you won’t have to sacrifice your only casserole dish to the freezer for a month.

We love lamb’s subtly gamey and comforting flavour, but if it’s not your cup of tea, feel free to swap it for ground chicken, beef or even bison for a low-fat and high-protein option. It is next to impossible to go wrong with this delicious freezer-friendly favourite!


Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Serves: 6 – 8


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 lb ground lamb

1 medium Spanish onion, finely diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 – 14 oz tin white kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 – 14 oz tin navy beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped

1/4 cup sultana raisins

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup low sodium beef stock

10 mint leaves, finely chopped

5 cups 1/2-inch cubes day old bread

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Preheat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the lamb and sauté until just browned. Add the onion, carrot, garlic and thyme. Stir until vegetables are softened and almost translucent, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Stir in the kidney beans, navy beans, apricots, raisins and peas. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/4 of the beef stock to deglaze. Pour in the remaining stock and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

4. Stir in mint leaves and pour the lamb cassoulet mixture into an casserole dish.

5. Toss the bread with 1 tablespoon olive oil, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.

6. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until bread is crisp and golden.

7. Remove from the oven and let the cassoulet rest for 10 minutes before serving.



Amanda Riva is the host of The Hot Plate,
a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence
in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice,
how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.






Hooked on the Catch at Gourmet Food & Wine Expo

Toronto gourmands were in for a treat and a tipple last week as the 19th annual Gourmet Food and Wine Expo took over the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
For three days, visitors were able to sample fare from exhibitors serving up sweet and savoury eats. The Food Network Celebrity Chef Stage hosted informative demos from celebrity chef presentations (Hello, Roger Mooking!) on the biggest food trends, from gluten-free cooking to authentic homemade Mexican and “Oysters 101.”  Visitors ate their way around the globe with Japanese, Caribbean, Spanish, Ethiopian and fusion dishes satiating the hungry crowd.

Between the glitz and grub, one tasty trend caught our eye: fresh fish was a hook, line and winner! Deconstructed sushi and spoonfuls of dressed-up sashimi in one aisle, seafood paella and caviar in the next!

Washed down with one of the 15,000 wines and spirits being served, well, we’d cheers to that!



Cook Something Bold Day

spicy dishes


Today is National Cook Something Bold Day and we want you to expand your cooking horizons. What could be bolder than a dish that sets your taste buds on fire? Check out some of our favourite bold and spicy recipes!


Spicy Green Mango and Cucumber Salad 

Orange Chipotle Shrimp 

Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers 

Spicy Green Chili Sauce 

Thai Shrimp and Citrus Salad 

Hot and Spicy Noodle Salad

Seared Scallops with Sweet Pea and Jalapeno Puree

Spicy Lamb Meatballs

Jamaican Chicken Curry  

Spicy Grilled Beef Salad  

Pork Vindaloo 




Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship


“My first big break was getting the Executive Sous Chef job at Sutton Place, which turned into a Chef job within two months. I was twenty-five years old… and it was a huge catapult for me. Whoever wins this competition, even the young chefs that come in the top three, are instantly catapulted into a new category.” Mark McEwan remembers his first steps on the road to success, where he developed a keen eye for spotting top talent in the culinary arena. The Food Network Head Judge now knows the best place to look for the next Top Chef is among the young chefs. That’s exactly why he heeded the call of superstar chef David Hawksworth to judge this year’s Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship.

This Sunday, ten red seal chefs, all under the age of 28, will create a main course for four with a limited pantry and just two hours to work with. The top three victors will then have two hours and fifteen minutes to prepare and plate a main course and dessert from the ingredients provided in a black box challenge. The competitors include:

Mark Andrew Brown – 27, Ayr, ON
Ross Derrick – 27, Winnipeg, MB
Arnie Mitchell Guieb – 23, Vancouver, BC
Talib Hudda – 24, Sherwood Park, AB
Carmen Ingham – 27, North Vancouver, BC
Hayden Johnston – 24, Thunder Bay, ON
John Ly – 24, Vancouver, BC
Brad Masciotra – 23, London, ON
Paul Moran – 26, Kelowna, BC
Garrett Rotel – 21, Calgary, AB

Pride, prestige and a $10,000 prize rest on the palettes of the esteemed judging panel, which includes Food Network Canada’s Mark McEwan and Vikram Vij, who are working more than their marking pens on Sunday. The judges themselves will each create a course for the scholarship’s gala fundraising dinner, which is open to the public. Tickets are still available for $140 and $218 with wine pairings. Reservations can be made by calling (604) 673-7000.

If you can’t make it out there this weekend, follow FoodNetworkCA on Instagram for a live look at the competition as it unfolds!


9 Gourmet Versions of Classic Foods

gourmet comfort food

What happens when your favourite snacks get a gourmet makeover? On the latest episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, competitors were given the challenge of making gourmet ravioli using only ingredients found at a gas station. It got us thinking about taking ordinary treats and making them extraordinary. With the recipes below, you can enjoy the foods you’ve always loved, while truly wowing your guests. It’s a win-win situation! Check out our picks of the 9 best recipes that have gone gourmet.


1. Foie Gras Poutine 2. Gourmet Salsa and Chips 3. Kentucky Fried Quail

4. Truffle Macaroni and Cheese 5. Cotton Candy Liquid Truffle

6. Foie Gras Lollipops 7. Christine’s Twist on a BLT 

8. Tuna Sandwich with Capers and Truffle Oil 9. Duck Confit Pizza








Gourmet Pizza Recipes in an Hour or Less

gourmet pizza recipes

We hope the first week of back-to-school  season treated you and the kids well! Now it’s time to get back in the swing of things and plan out school lunches and easy weeknight dinners, and that’s where we come in! Everyone loves pizza, and whether you want to whip up a kid-friendly version in 15 minutes, or you want to step up your game with a gourmet duck pie, we have a recipe for you!


60 minutes: Duck Confit Pizza Recipe

40 minutes: Butter Chicken Pizza Recipe

15 minutes: Bruschetta Pizza Recipe



Ceviche from The Hot Plate

Whether you’re beach-bound this summer or bound to the backyard, this South American favourite is an easy, sea-breezy way to get your vacation on without battling the cottage traffic or even stepping outside the reach of the AC!

As a side note: The citric acids in the lime and/or lemon juice will cause the pieces of fish to look cooked (in culinary terms this is called ‘denaturation’), however, unlike heat-induced denaturation, the fruit acids do not kill any bacteria in the fish, so like with sushi, make sure it’s fresh!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 8


½ red onion, thinly sliced

1½ lbs skinless boneless sea bass or sea bream

½ teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste

juice of 3 limes

juice of 1 lemon

1 serrano chile, minced

pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro


1. Place the onion in a bowl of ice-water for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

2. In a large bowl, toss together all the ingredients, except the cilantro. Let the ceviche marinate for 15 minutes; toss occasionally to evenly coat.

3. To serve, divide between plates and serve with fresh cilantro.



Amanda_GarbuttAmanda Garbutt is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.








Pea and Goat’s Cheese Risotto from The Hot Plate

Peas are such a fantastic Spring ingredient. There sweet flavour and vibrant green colour add the perfect touch of Spring to any dish. We’ve chosen a Spring Pea Risotto to help give you a meal with two options. Risotto is a delicious main course, but can also be served as a hearty and festive side dish. What we love most is how risotto answers the question, “What do I feed the vegetarian at the table?”

Did you know that more than 6% of the population classify themselves as vegetarians? That puts the odds in favour of you hosting a dinner or holiday meal with at least one veggie-lover at the table. Risotto acts as a great side dish because it is also a main, meaning you don’t have to double up on all the veggie side dishes to make sure there’s enough food to go around.

Whether or not you’re entertaining this holiday, we recommend trying your hand at a beautiful and festive spring risotto!


Serves 4 (8 as a side dish)


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small Spanish onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 ¼ cup fresh or frozen peas
¼ cup goat’s cheese plus additional for serving
2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint
salt and pepper


Pour stock into a small saucepan and heat over low heat, keep warm while making risotto.

Melt butter with olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the Arborio and stir for 2 minutes.

Add wine and cook, stirring until evaporated. Add 2 cups of stock and stir until evaporated. Add peas and an additional 1 cup of stock, continue to stir until evaporated. Continue adding stock and stirring until Arborio rice is al dente and creamy. Stir in goat’s cheese and mint. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve risotto as a main or side dish with an additional crumble of goat’s cheese.


Amanda_GarbuttAmanda Garbutt is the host of The Hot Plate, a free online cooking show dedicated to inspiring culinary confidence in new cooks. The Hot Plate also offers regular cooking tips and advice, how-tos, and information on seasonal ingredients.









Seared Scallops with Sweet Pea and Jalapeno Purée from Dan’s Good Side

Alright, so not the best photo…but, what’s a guy to do when he’s cooking dinner at a friend’s house and doesn’t really feel like lugging his big camera over to snap a picture? I have to remind myself that it’s ok to resort to some iPhonetography once and awhile. I mean, after all, it’s the taste that matters, not the picture that I spend ten minutes taking while dinner gets cold!

After getting back into town from my worldly adventures, I had a lot of catching up to do with my friends. This past weekend, I made dinner with my friend Trina. Neither of us have had scallops for quite some time, so we decided to cook some up. The pea and jalapeño purée has a nice bit of heat, which I topped with some sautéed scallions and radishes, scallops and finished it all with a couple dollops of olive tapenade to cut the richness.

This is great recipe that plates well and is full of colour, which is perfect now that spring is officially here (although, as I type this, it is snowing).


What you’ll need…


1 yellow onion (finely chopped)

3 cloves garlic (halved)

2 cups green peas (thawed)

1 jalapeño (seeds removed, loosely chopped)

1/2 cup half and half

2 TSP cane sugar

1 TSP paprika

1/2 cup fresh basil

salt and pepper

olive oil


1/3 cup kalamata olives (pitted)

1/4 cup capers

1/4 cup fresh parsley

1 TBSP olive oil

2 TSP lemon juice

1 TSP ground black pepper

Scallops and Vegetables:

1 TBSP butter

1 1/2 cups radishes (trimmed and halved)

1 bunch scallions (trimmed, loosely chopped)

9 scallops

salt and pepper

1 TBSP grapeseed oil


Start things off by cooking down the chopped onion and garlic with a little olive oil in a medium pot on medium-high heat. Next, add the green peas and chopped jalapeño to the pot and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now, pour in the cream, along with sugar and paprika.

Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce to medium heat and let simmer, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. Finally, toss in fresh basil and using an immersion blender or food processor, pureé the mixture until silky smooth. Return to pot, give a light seasoning with salt and pepper and keep warm on the stove.

Now for the tapenade…just place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Since the olives are so salty, you won’t need any additional salt. Scoop into a small bowl and set aside until you’re ready to plate.

Next, melt butter down in a medium pan on medium-high heat. Add the radishes and scallions to pan and toss a few times to coat. Let vegetables cook until the radishes become translucent and tender, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and cover.

Last, but not least, pat scallops dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat grapeseed oil on high heat in a large pan. Carefully place the seasoned scallops into the hot pan and sear on each side until caramelized and crisp, approximately 1 minute per side.

To plate, spoon some of the warm pea and jalapeño purée into the centre of each plate, top with sautéed vegetables, then 3 scallops and a tiny dollop of tapenade on top of each.



Dan Clapson Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.