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NOW Atlantic: Smart thinking for a changing world
By Jennifer Weatherhead Harrington
So, travel is not at your fingertips right now. But you know what is? Your kitchen - and a pantry of food, ready to take you on your own adventure with a little creativity, ingenuity and a couple dashes of inspiration from the pros.
To help curb the wanderlust you may be experiencing while also enduring cabin fever, three local foodies share their recipes and tips for making the most out of your pantry staples that can actually be the base for international dishes. Plus, there’s no better time to kick up your kitchen skills, whether you’re a novice or a self-proclaimed gourmet connoisseur.
Who’s ready for a little trip?
Smith’s Caribbean Chicken
Chef Michael Smith, chef and owner of The Inn at Bay Fortune, chefmichaelsmith
“I’m drawn to the big, bright flavours of tropical cooking all over the world,” Smith says.
When it comes to cooking out of your comfort zone, he has some solid advice.
“You're not striving for perfection; you're just cooking dinner. The beauty is in the doing, not whether you get it right or wrong.”
For his tropic-inspired recipe below, he says, “Nothing beats a festive pan full of Caribbean stories and bright, sunny flavors. Head for the table and take a vacation for dinner!”
Pantry staples: Canned tomatoes, canned beans, rice and dried lentils.
Caribbean Braised Chicken with Coconut Sweet Potato Mash (Serves 4 to 6)
For the chicken
Splash of vegetable oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Cloves from 1 head of garlic, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 habanero chili, halved, seeded, and finely chopped
1-inch (2.5 cm) knob of frozen ginger, grated
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of pineapple juice
1/4 cup of dark rum
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced
A few handfuls of fresh cilantro leaves
For the sweet potato mash
A 14-ounce (400 mL) can of coconut milk
1 whole nutmeg, grated (about 1 tablespoon/15 mL)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
2 large or 3 or 4 medium sweet potatoes (unpeeled), cut in small chunks
2 green onions, chopped
Begin with the chicken. Match your favourite large, heavy skillet with a tight-fitting lid and
medium-high heat. Splash in enough vegetable oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken thighs and sear the first side until golden brown and crusty, four to five minutes. Flip and sear the second side until it’s equally golden brown. Reduce the heat to medium
and transfer the chicken to a plate.
Add the onion, garlic, red pepper, habanero chili, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt to the pan. Sauté for a minute or two, heating through, softening textures, and brightening spice flavors. Add the pineapple juice and rum. Bring the works to a slow, steady simmer. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan, nestling the chicken into the sauce.
Add one last layer of flavour with the mango slices arranged in a spoke pattern on top of the works. Cover tightly, lower the heat further, and continue gently simmering until the thighs reach an internal temperature of 165F, about 15 minutes.
While the chicken simmers, make the sweet potato mash. Combine the coconut milk, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in the sweet potatoes and bring the works to a slow, steady simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the sweet potatoes soften, 20 minutes or so. Turn off the heat, mash the works, and set aside, covered. Just before serving, stir in the green onions.
Spoon the fragrant, tender chicken over mounds of sweet potato mash and sprinkle cilantro leaves all over the works. Serve and share!
By Jennifer Crawford, MasterChef Canada winner @jennifer.e.crawford
made more congee, going to post a cook thru in stories 💕💛. just taking things a day at a time over here, trying to not achieve *at* my MANY challenging emotions (aka my favourite numbing activity masquerading as ~wellness~ 😅) ... it has been ASTONISHING and SO SWEET watching the epic levels of *creation* in the wake of so much cancellation. we are all such generative, hopeful and sweet creatures!! plzzzzz keep cranking out those cooking vids and vids of your pets being perplexed and overjoyed that ur home, they're my new favourite channels 📺 ... as with stories yesterday, feel free to DM me your pantry ingredients & I'll do my best to help u make something ❤️. I didn't get to all the ones yesterday, I ran out of mental health energy for screentime! Sorry for anyone I missed, slide into them DMs if yr still ISO ideas 💕 ... #covidcooking #quarantinecooking #congee #jasminerice #seasonedegg #masterchefcda #masterchefcanada #foodportrait #foodcreative #pantrycooking #novascotialife #soberchef #annapolisvalley #annapolisvalleyns #tastenovascotia
“Learning how to nourish yourself is one of the most powerful self-care things you can do because it helps you care for others,” Crawford says.
And if you’re feeling stuck with what’s in your cupboards, she offers help on her Instagram account through what she is calling “pantry parties” - just shoot her a note of what you have on hand, and she’ll help you come up with a new recipe. (Hit up her Instagram stories to find step-by-step instructions for her congee recipe below).
Pantry staples: Rice, flour, canned goods, root vegetables.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1lb meat (ground, stewing chunks, either is ok!)
1 cup jasmine rice (but don't be afraid to use what you have around!)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine (or use apple cider vinegar, if you don't have)
4 cups stock
To serve (these are just some common toppings, use what you like!)
Seasoned, soft-boiled egg
Chopped green onions
Minced fresh ginger
Fried garlic slices
Toasted sesame oil
In a pressure cooker (or large pot!) cook onion and one tablespoon olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook one minute more, until fragrant. Scoop out of pot and into a bowl -- set aside.
In the same pot, bring heat to high. Sear the meat you are using on all sides with the other tablespoon of olive oil.
Once browned, turn heat off. Pour in the stock, rice, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, and the onion and garlic mixture.
Give a nice big stir. If in a pressure cooker, seal and bring to pressure, and cook on low for 1 hour, less if you'd like it to have a bit more structure. If cooking in a pot on the stovetop, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for two to three hours until creamy and silky. Add a little water to the pot if it starts looking dry.
Serve immediately with as many of the suggested toppings as you like.
Shannon MacIntyre, food Instagrammer, @eatwithshannon
“I spend so much time In Rome now that I crave their simple pasta dishes - amatriciana, cacio e pepe, and carbonara,” MacIntrye says. “I find it encouraging to cook these dishes because they have very few ingredients.”
White dried cannellini beans, San Marzano tomatoes, lots of pasta, and Italian tomato paste in the tube. “The holy grail of all cooking for me is good quality extra virgin olive oil. My favourite variety is the Itrana olive, from Lazio. It's fruity, bitter, spicy and is the perfect cooking and finishing oil.”
Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese
2 pounds of fresh tagliatelle
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup minced pancetta
2 large carrots finely chopped
2 onions finely chopped
2 stalks of celery finely chopped
1 tube of Italian tomato paste
1 pound of medium ground beef (don't buy lean, it has less flavour)
1 pound of minced pork
1 glass of dry red wine
1 carton of beef stock
Sea salt & pepper
To make the ragu, heat the butter in a large pan, add the prosciutto, carrot, celery and onion and fry for about 10 minutes. Add the minced meats and stir with a wooden spoon to break them up into smaller chunks.
Cook until the meat is browned, then add the wine and allow the alcohol to cook off. Stir in a little stock to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan. Stir in the tomato paste and dilute with a few tablespoons of stock to give a sauce like consistency. Leave to simmer for three hours, checking regularly and adding more stock when needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook the tagliatelle in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain and mix with the sauce. Serve with the parmigiano reggiano and a nice glass of red wine.
More local foodies to follow on Instagram for inspiration:
With things changing every day, I know everyone is feeling panicked and nervous about covid-19. 😔 I am definitely NOT advocating for panic-buying supplies and food when you already have enough. It’s unnecessary and takes away from people who may need it more. That being said, I put together a few photos of recipes here that use mostly pantry staples (and frozen items) to make! For those of you who may want to make a few meals to freeze, or who may be looking for recipes to use what you have in your pantry, check out these ones! Chilli mac & cheeze (always a favourite, and uses mostly pantry or frozen items!), baked garlic potatoes, pancakes with frozen blueberries and rice noodle stir fry that can easily use frozen veggies if you don’t have a ton of fresh (or can’t find them)! A FEW extra packages of pasta, rice, canned goods like coconut milk and tomato sauce can go a long way! Many of my recipes use these items so if you have them, you’re set! Please remember that panicking generally leads the brain to make sub-par decisions. So remember to take care of yourself, but please do not take things you don’t need because I guarantee other people likely will need it more. ❤️ recipes for all of these are on my blog!
Pantry staples that are turned into plant-friendly meals by this author and blogger.
This account might just be the healthy kick you need, with all raw-based recipes, but loads of international flavours.
Less about posting actual recipes and more about devouring the good eats around the maritimes, follow this account for inspiration from those local restaurants you’re missing right now.
I worked with @janesnextdoor (you know, sister to @ednarestaurant ) over the last few weeks to get their online store up and running to supply Halifax with healthy meals! I took photos and reaped the benefits of delicious frozen meals, soups, stews, salad and baked goods at home. You can now order here: https://janes-next-door.myshopify.com/ with next day delivery, and they are taking all the precautions in your food preparation. I highly suggest the super creamy mac and cheese, butter chicken, pumpkin date muffins and the smoked seafood chowder! I'll be trying to promote and show folks other community restaurants thinking outside the box, and doing delivery/pick-up in coming days!
Barry Parsons shares his tried-and-true east coast recipes (like the best white bread recipe) to chili lime chicken and gooey desserts.