Food Matters – Cooking with Avocados

Avocado Tree in Hawaii

Avocado Tree in Hawaii

It’s sometimes called the Alligator Pear, because of its shape and rippled skin. But the avocado has no real bite to it, a rather mildly-flavoured fruit that gets consumed on a daily basis around the world. My consumption of avocados has just made a leap as I’ve been cooking my way through a new avocado cookbook written by a Vancouver Island author.

I haven’t always been a big fan of the avocado. I can’t ever remember my mother buying an avocado when I lived at home. Guacamole, the dip featuring most common use of avocado, wasn’t even in my vocabulary. When I finally did taste guacamole, I didn’t really like it. Then I think when I moved to BC and I started eating the ubiquitous California Roll, I started to come around. That being said, it’s my wife who insists on always buying avocados when we’re out shopping, and she is the one who makes the guacamole, or puts it in our salad and sandwiches.

Elizabeth Nyland

Elizabeth Nyland

Cooking with Avocados

Cooking with Avocados

But this week I picked up a new cookbook, simply called Cooking with Avocados, by Elizabeth Nyland of Sidney. You may remember me talking about her first cookbook, Cooking with Coconut Oil, which has been doing very well for her. This book continues her work in bringing more ways to us to use a healthy food. It turns out Elizabeth was not that familiar with avocados earlier in her life, either: “So I think the first time I bought an avocado was when I moved out on my own, probably in my early 20′s. My family didn’t buy them because they could be expensive, and because they were seen as being high in calories, and my father especially didn’t want that.”

In fact, Elizabeth’s grandmother used to tell her father not to eat avocados too often because they were very fattening and even wrote ‘300’ on the skin to remind her of the high calorie content. They may be high in calories, but they are full of good things, too. While 85 percent of the calories in an avocado come from fat, that fat is monounsaturated, just like olive oil, which can help reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, they’re known as anti-inflammatories, rich in potassium, B-Vitamins and help to increase your absorption of healthy nutrients. So in doing her research for the cookbook, Elizabeth discovered that you can use avocado as a substitute for butter in many recipes.

The avocado is a fruit you have to think about ahead of time when you want to use one. If they aren’t ripe, just forget about it. But how do you tell if they are ripe? Elizabeth has a great tip. When you buy a few avocados and bring them home, you can flip off the remnant of the stem. If the flesh under the stem looks that perfect shade of avocado green, it’s ready. You can also look at the skin. Bright green, not ripe. In between green and black, probably ripe. Black, forget about it. It’s probably started to rot. A ripe avocado will have just a little bit of give to it when you press it gently near the stem end.

In the cookbook, Elizabeth also shows you how to properly cut and peel an avocado in the book, and here’s a new one for me. Say you just want to use half an avocado. How to keep it from going brown? She says leave it in the skin and put it into a bowl of water to which you have stirred in 1 teaspoon of salt. Put it in the fridge and it will NOT go brown for about 24 hours.

Recipes in Cooking With Avocados cover breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. I’ve tried three recipes so far (see photos below), all with great success. You can also watch Elizabeth in action, next Saturday, September 6th at the Victoria Public Market. She’ll be doing a cooking demo there at 12 noon and I am going to be her willing and able assistant…and I think those meatballs are going to make an appearance as well.

 

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Food Matters – Salmon

My first salmon

My first salmon

It’s been a good news and bad news scenario for BC salmon this summer. Sockeye returns to our rivers may be the highest in years, but certain runs may be threatened by the Polley Lake mine tailings spill and dangerously low water levels here on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan River. But so far the fish are there for the eating, so here’s an update on what kind of salmon we can expect over the next few weeks and how to use them.

This morning I talked with Brian Riddell, the president and CEO of the Pacific Salmon Foundation specifically about the Cowichan River. He says it’s not unusual for East Coast Vancouver Island rivers to suffer from low water levels in the summer, but this drought for the Cowichan is more severe than ever. This is a river that supports good returns of Chinook, coho and chum with some pink and steelhead trout as well.

The Foundation is not sounding the alarm bell just yet. Riddell says returning salmon can hold up in Cowichan Bay, sometimes for at least a month, waiting for better water levels, and many of the returning salmon come a little later in the summer. Earlier runs may suffer, and if you get that a couple of years in a row than that can mean drastically reduced returns in the future. Riddell believes that something has to be done now to protect the water flows in the long term. The combination of drought, which may become a yearly occurrence, municipal and industrial use contributes to the reduced summertime flows. Riddell says there is a plan, but it just hasn’t been implemented yet, and it’s unfortunate that an emergency situation like this summer’s drought may be needed to get that plan moving again.

Salmon arriving at BC restaurants

Salmon arriving at BC restaurants

In the meantime, salmon from other runs in BC are returning and being caught in good numbers. I also spoke with Michael Renwick, executive director of the BC Salmon Marketing Council. Large numbers of sockeye salmon have been passing through counting stations and openings have started. There have also been good catches of pink, spring, and some coho. One of the major fish processors he chatted with recently told him that the consumer market for fresh, wild salmon has been very strong, they’ve sold all their catch into that market here and across North America, instead of having to freeze some of that fresh fish.

So now is the time to get out there and buy it! You will notice a wide variation in pricing depending on which kind of salmon you want to get and who you want to buy it from. If those sockeye returns head into record territory, which we will find out about in a few weeks, I would say prices would have to drop since there will be so much of it available. But I picked up a whole sockeye this week for about 6 dollars a pound and a couple of pinks for about half that amount.

Sockeye Salmon fillets (photo by Bettina Harvey)

Sockeye Salmon fillets (photo by Bettina Harvey)

If you have any knife skills at all I recommend you buy whole fish and cut it into fillets or steaks for the barbecue, and if you think a whole fish is too much you can always cut it up and freeze it, or cook it all and use it to make salmon cakes or salads. If you are purchasing whole fish in larger supermarkets the heads are likely cut off, so you can’t look at the eyes…bright, clear eyes being a sign of freshness. So, no head? The fish is likely in a bag, or foam tray with shrink wrap. Pick it up and smell it. If it smells fishy, especially through the plastic, give it a pass. Then poke the flesh with your finger. If it bounces back from your poke, you’ve got a fresh one. If a dent stays in, it’s not so fresh. Poke another one. I bought a whole sockeye and a whole pink salmon (pink is a real bargain) and gave them two different treatments, one grilled, one smoked. Here are some pink salmon recipes from the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and the recipe page from the BC Salmon Marketing Council.

This is one of my all-time favourite recipes for salmon, which I found in a Canadian Homemakers magazine years and years ago. Don’t be put off by the marinade…it looks and smells like tar! But once you cook it, the flavour is divine.

Wild West Salmon

Ingredients:
1 Whole salmon, up to 5 pounds

Marinade:
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 Cup rye whiskey
1 Tablespoon molasses
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon each Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper
2 Garlic Cloves — minced

Combine marinade ingredients, mix well and pour into large, flat dish. Remove head, tail and fins from salmon. Run a sharp knife down backbone until salmon opens flat. Place flesh side down in the marinade and refrigerate overnight or for at least a few hours. When ready to grill, remove salmon from marinade and place skin side down on oiled grill. Barbecue until flesh is just opaque and flakes easily, 20-30 minutes or less, depending on the size of the salmon. The backbone and side bones should lift right out of the flesh. I usually serve this with wild rice, or a combination of wild rice and brown rice, and a side vegetable dish. Enjoy!

Ronnie Shewchuk, one of my BBQ gurus...

Ronnie Shewchuk, one of my BBQ gurus…

The second treatment is a very simple recipe from Ron Shewchuk’s great cookbook, Barbecue Secrets Deluxe. Rub the fillet with sesame oil, then sprinkle on salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes to taste, then sprinkle with a light coating of brown sugar, and drizzle with lemon juice.

The salmon went on my Traeger Lil’ Tex pellet smoker for about an hour and a half or two hours at 225F, and came out moist and flavourful. I drizzled some more lemon juice on top when serving.

 

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Food Matters – Tempest in a Teapot

Tea buses at Teafarm

Tea buses at Teafarm

 

It’s a veritable tempest in a teapot. Vancouver Island is brewing up a storm of innovations in tea, even to the point of growing tea bushes in the northern part of the Cowichan Valley.  At the northern end of the Cowichan Valley, just north of Duncan, lies teafarm. This is the place where Victor Vesely and Margit Nelleman, for the past few years, have been growing herbs and flowers that they blend with fair trade and organic teas. But on the farm, they have now planted over 600 tea bushes, which are now starting to produce small amounts of tea leaves. Only the top shoots from each branch get harvested to make tea, although more robust leaves can be harvested for culinary uses.

 

Top tender leaves of bush, ready for harvest

Top tender leaves of bush, ready for harvest

Victor calls the plantings the ‘Tea Experiment’. It is to give people a better idea of how tea is grown, harvested and processed. He also believes there will be a distinct flavour that emerges from this Cowichan Tea, as they call it, because of the indigenous soils and climate conditions, the extremes from 38 degrees Celsius in the summer to minus 15 in the winter. And they can also use the leaves for culinary purposes, he says you can even slice these up and throw them in a stir-fry. A big part of the farm is giving people an experience in the world of tea through tastings and education.

 

 

 

Victor Vesely pouring mint tea, Moroccan-style

Victor Vesely pouring mint tea, Moroccan-style

While I was there Victor did a Moroccan-style mint tea ceremony for me, they have fantastic bushes of mint growing there, so freshly-picked mint, carefully steeped, a bit of sugar added to it and the pouring from a silver teapot from great height, it was a lot of fun. I tasted some other teas as well, and what I’ve become more aware of over the years is the amount of artificial flavours and additives that go into tea, and chemicals that are used in the bags and the packaging. TeaFarm is different, they don’t put any artificial flavours or colourings into their tea, and use all natural ingredients, so if they want to get something a vanilla flavour, they chop up whole vanilla beans to add in, for example.

 

 

Daniela Cubelic of Silk Road Tea

Daniela Cubelic of Silk Road Tea

But they are not the only tea company to take that attitude here on the island. Silk Road Tea here in Victoria has been using that same philosophy in tea for over 20 years now, and company founder Daniela Cubelic continues to innovate in that sustainable, organic direction. A few years ago she helped develop an ingenious new style of cup that easily brews loose-leaf tea with no fuss and no muss, and now Silk Road has just released the first of its teas that actually come in tea bags. Daniela told me she has been getting requests to have her tea available in bags for years, but it took her about 10 years to develop a bag that would meet her standards for quality, flavour and sustainability. The bag material is plant based, the label is not stapled on, so it is one hundred percent compostable. The pyramid shape gives lots of room for the tea to be brewed so the full flavour comes out. Many of the machines that are used for packing tea into bags actually damage the tea, so she has brought specialty machinery right here to Victoria to do the packing in their warehouse facility. So far they are putting ten of Silk Road’s most popular teas into bags.

Cooling Iced Tea

Cooling Iced Tea

If it does get hot again this summer, which I am sure it will, many of the teas from Silk Road and TeaFarm make excellent iced teas. Today I made iced tea  from one of TeaFarm’s Chinese Zodiac blends, Dog; black assam tea with cardamom and vanilla bean, and then their Lemon-Ginger herbal infusion which has lemon grass, lemon balm, lemon verbena, ginger, lemon peel and calendula flowers. I added just a little bit of honey to each and a bit of lemon and orange juices to the Lemon-Ginger tea.

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Food Matters – BBQ Gear and Summer Cocktails

Slow Smoked Ribs and Chicken Legs

Slow Smoked Ribs and Chicken Legs

My barbecue and pellet smoker have been working overtime this summer. Why heat up the house when you cook outside? Today on Food Matters, I presented a grab-bag of suggestions for your barbecue as well as a couple of cocktails you can easily make ‘pitcher-sized’ when you have friends coming over.

Regular listeners to my radio column will know that I own more than one barbecue, and they have both been getting a good workout this summer. I have a Traeger pellet smoker that has an electric fire chamber, auger and fan to keep the pellets and smoke moving smoothly, and I use it mostly to do slow barbecue items, like ribs and pork shoulder, it can run for hours on its own, but it also does an awesome beer can chicken when I crank it up to high.

The other main barbecue I use is an Ultra Chef propane barbecue made by Napoleon, but sometimes I steal some of the wood pellets from the Traeger and put them in a foil packet on one of the burners to add some smoky flavour. So actually my first tip today is just that. You can buy little metal chambers to put the wood chips or pellets of your choice onto a propane grill burner to give your food some more flavour, or just make a little packet out of tin foil, poke it a few times with a fork and put it on a burner on low heat to add some smoke.

Grilling onions on Brazilian Ice soapstone grilling stones

Grilling onions on Brazilian Ice soapstone grilling stones

Lots of people are now into grilling pizzas on their barbecues, which could get a little dangerous if they end up sticking to the grill, so that’s where pizza stones and bakers come in. I have a traditional clay stone, but I’ve also been experimenting with something that is a little more portable so you can even take it camping with you. I have two grilling stones from an Edmonton company called the Grilling and Chilling Soapstone Company (formerly known as Brazilian Fire and Ice). They are made completely out of soapstone, heat up very evenly, are beautifully non-stick, and are easy to clean. I discovered them when I was cooking my way through Ted Reader’s Gastro Grilling cookbook, which has just been shortlisted in the Single Subject cookbook category of the Taste Canada awards. Ted likes to use these stones especially for grilling onions…and so do I!

 

Gastro Grilling, by Ted Reader

Gastro Grilling, by Ted Reader

Using Brazilian Fire and Ice grilling stones to bake naan bread

Using Brazilian Fire and Ice grilling stones to bake naan bread

Here’s Ted’s recipe for Whiskey Grilled Onions on top of some grilled chicken thighs, along with some Indian-style naan flatbread which I also baked on the stones. I made the naan dough in my Thermomix.

 

 

Bakerstone Pizza Oven

Bakerstone Pizza Oven

Also for pizzas, a friend of mine has one of these things called the Bakerstone Pizza Oven Box. You put it right on top of your bbq grill. It’s a metal box with baking stones inside, a thermometer on top, and the idea is that you can get the inside of this thing up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit by using both radiant and convective heat. 750 degrees means you can bake a pizza in just a few minutes and get that great crispy crust like they do in commercial pizza ovens. I love the pizzas I tasted from it but please measure your grill before buying one (they’re about 120 bucks) because my grill is just a little too small for this contraption.

The meal, with the three different alcoholic products I featured this week

The meal, with the three different alcoholic products I featured this week

Some drinks to go along with all this food? Three words. Aperol, Campari and Pimm’s. The first two are flavoured alcohols from Italy. Campari is a little more bitter than the Aperol, which has more of an orange flavour to it. Just add some soda to a shot of Campari and a slice of lemon or orange and you have a very refreshing ‘aperitivo’, as it’s called in Italy. Aperol goes well with a little orange juice and soda water for an Aperol Spritz, you could make it with bubbly prosecco if you want more alcohol, but if you want to keep it light and you’re in a rush I just love to add it to an iced glass of blood orange soda.

Finally, a Pimm’s. Pimm’s Number One Cup is a gin-based herbal concoction invented in England back in 1823. The most common way to drink it is to mix it up with lemonade and/or ginger ale and throw in some sliced fruit and cucumbers. All of these liquors are herbal in nature and they make great before dinner cocktails to get your appetites in shape for the barbecue!

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Food Matters – Knifewear

Knifewear Pop-up store at Fernwood Coffee

Knifewear Pop-up store at Fernwood Coffee

The cooking scene in Victoria just got a little bit sharper. Yesterday (July 30th) a pop-up version of a Canadian kitchen knife retailer opened in the Fernwood Coffee roasting room to give knife aficionados here on the Island a chance to look at, feel, try and perhaps buy a new slicer for their kitchens. I told Stephen Smart all about it today on this week’s edition of Food Matters on CBC Radio’s All Points West.

I have around 8 knives in my kitchen that I use on a regular basis. Some are special use, for paring, boning, and bread. Then I rotate around four as my regular chef knives that I use mostly for cutting vegetables. They are a mix of Japanese and European knives and it’s safe to say I am very particular about having good, sharp knives to use in the kitchen, but I’m always looking for something special. 

 

Kevin Kent, Knifewear Owner

Kevin Kent, Knifewear Owner

The pop-up shop I visited yesterday in Fernwood is a travelling road show of handmade Japanese knives put together by Kevin Kent and his team of employees at Knifewear. This is a company that started in Calgary and also has shops in Kelowna, Edmonton, and Ottawa. I first walked into a Knifewear shop in Ottawa earlier this year and was really impressed with the selection and the knowledge of the staff. But when I met Kevin in person yesterday I wanted to know how he came to start the business. It all started when he was working as a chef in London, England: I bought a Japanese knife one day when I was at a chef’s convention and all of a sudden I had one of those ‘light goes off-bing’ in my head that ‘ah, that’s what a knife is supposed to work like’. So then I replaced all my knives with Japanese. When I moved back to Calgary I just couldn’t find anything in all of Canada that was any good, so I thought I would import a few Japanese knives, sell them to chefs, be able to buy more of my own and then open my own restaurant, which is what I always wanted to do. Now here I am years later with five knife shops and I’m not cooking anymore!”

My sharpened Sabatier slicing through newspaper

My sharpened Sabatier slicing through newspaper

Kevin doesn’t dismiss all non-Japanese knives. I brought him an old European knife that was given to me by my brother-in-law who thought it might be special and it is. It’s a Sabatier, one of the finest European knife manufacturers.  it is made entirely of carbon steel, not stainless, so it looks kind of ugly because of the patina it has developed, but Kevin was excited to see it and gave it a good sharpening for me. Still, Japanese are his favourites for a reason: “Japanese knives are made out of harder steel, and harder steel makes a sharper edge and it will stay sharper for longer. Do they cost more? Yes and no. I have knives in the shops that start around $60. Then they go up from there, and yes, some of them can cost a couple of mortgage payments. The cost can vary because certain types of steel cost more, and you also have to think about how the knives are made. Some of the knives start out by having machinery flatten them, and then you also get blacksmiths making knives, so someone like Kato San who is over 70 years old and starts off a knife with a hammer, steel and a fire, well, they cost a bit more.”

 

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions, decisions!

But if you are making a mortgage payment-sized investment, here are some factors to consider: Kevin says always go to a shop where you can test the knife.  Get a feel for it. Check the balance, the weight, how it feels in your hand. What do you want to use it for? While I was there yesterday Rebecca Teskey was there, she’s the co-owner of the Village Butcher in Oak Bay. She already has one knife she got from Knifewear but was there looking for another, and there’s a big difference for her in the kind of knife she might use at home, and the kind of knife she might use while she’s cutting up chickens at the Village Butcher, so the Knifewear employees were helping her make her decisions based on the way the knife is ultimately going to be used.

My new knife at work!

My new knife at work!

I purchased a Takamura chef’s knife, 7-inch blade, made of powder steel. It took Kevin a year to track down Takamura-san after seeing his knives displayed at a train station in Japan, and now he’s a major fan. Nothing really fancy, but glides through food and apparently doesn’t have to be babied as much as some powder steel blades. I did not spend a mortgage payment on this but it did check in at $250. However, as Kevin says, if you properly care for your knife, it should last a lifetime: “Everything here will last, if you take care of it. Don’t put it in the dishwasher. Use it on a cutting board, and by that I mean a wooden cutting board, have it sharpened now and again, and it should last you a lifetime, or lifetimes. My son and daughter are going to inherit some really nice knives. As a chef, I retired one or two knives, because I was sharpening them every week, using them 10 hours a day, but now, they only get sharpened once every eight months or so, they last a lot longer.” 

Why are we paying so much more attention to knives now? It’s like so many things in the world of food and wine. Food media, especially good food magazines and some television shows, are getting us back into cooking, and are willing to go into a lot of detail on different ways for us to spend our disposable income. It’s why we bother to learn the difference between local and imported foods, craft beers and industrial beers, for example, and support all those farmers’ markets that have sprung up over the past few years.

Knife Skills Illustrated, by Peter Hertzmann

Knife Skills Illustrated, by Peter Hertzmann

A few more notes: Knifewear is only open at Fernwood Coffee until Sunday, August 3rd, after that you’ll have to do mail order. I came across a great book last week at a used bookstore called Knife Skills Illustrated, by Peter Hertzmann, and shows you in drawings all the different ways to cut various things up when you’re cooking, advice on knives and cutting boards, and all the instructions are doubled up to cover whether you are right-handed or left-handed, which is a great touch. Also came across a great episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations show which shares some very common cooking techniques as shown by some of the world’s best chefs. Great way to learn some basic stuff like roasting a chicken, cutting an onion and even frying a hamburger.

Here’s a gallery of some of the knives in the pop-up shop. Click to enlarge. The last photo is of Kevin using a wet and dry sharpening stone system to get my old Sabatier into shape.

Here is the full interview I did with Kevin Kent. I started by asking him about the experience about buying a knife at a specialty shop. To hear the shorter talk I did with Stephen Smart about Knifewear, click here. (the file should be available by later today or Monday)

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Food Matters – Summer Reading 2014

Sous Chef

Sous Chef

It looks like the next week, and hopefully weeks, are going to be hot and sunny across British Columbia. It’s time for the beach, your deck, or maybe just some air conditioned comfort. Because when it gets too hot to move, one of the best things to do is relax with a good book. When I relax with a book, of course it usually has something to do with food, and as I prepare to take a couple of weeks off, I’m willing to share my reading list with you.

Over the summer I like to leave most of the cookbooks on the shelf except when searching for some inspiration after shopping for the produce of the season, but otherwise I want something that will keep my whole attention occupied for chapters at a time. That includes non-fiction and fiction and this week I have curated a short list for foodies, as well as for kids who are interested in food.

The Third Plate, by Dan Barber

The Third Plate, by Dan Barber

A foodie friend of mine highly recommended The Third Plate, Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber. She said this takes the books of food journalist Michael Pollan to another level. Pollan of course, is famous for his books called the Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, in which he urges us to get closer to a simpler food life, but The Third Plate goes to the source of food we get from farms. Dan Barber is an award-winning chef at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the Pocatino Hills just north of New York City. He describes “first plate” as a classic meal centered on meat with few vegetables. But he says many people are now eating from the “second plate,” the new ideal of organic, grass-fed meats and local vegetables. Barber says neither of those plates supports the long-term productivity of the land. His “third plate” is a new pattern of eating rooted in cooking with and celebrating the whole farm—an integrated system of vegetable, grain, and livestock production. So I’m really interested in reading that and seeing how he addresses the question of ‘whole farms’ being able to support our urban populations and whether farmers’ markets are seen as a help or a hindrance to his system.

The Third Plate spends a lot of time on the farm, something that takes us into a kitchen is  Sous Chef, 24 Hours on the Line, by Michael Gibney. This book is not quite Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential in that it’s not an autobiography. But the 24 hours in the kitchen of Gibney unfolds in second person narrative…so it puts YOU in the kitchen, experiencing everything that hardworking chefs go through behind the scenes at a breakneck pace in this fictional day that is based on the years of experience Gibney has had working at every single station in a kitchen from dishwasher up to chef.

I think ever since we started getting chef-centred shows on the Food Network, and then branching out onto other networks, young people have started viewing being a chef as quite a glamorous career, especially when you see how rich and famous chefs like Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and Anthony Bourdain have become.  So we’ve seen more chef schools opening, enrolments going up…but I think a book like Sous Chef should be required reading so people know exactly what they are getting into if they decide the kitchen is a place for their career.

Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders by Kevin Sylvester

Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders by Kevin Sylvester

Sous Chef is a dose of reality for young adults, so for a good taste of food in fiction,I’ve just started reading the Neil Flambé series by Kevin Sylvester. People may remember Kevin as a sports host here on CBC Radio and he still turns up from time to time on network radio, but Kevin is also a very good artist and has a flair for a good mystery as well, based on his creation, Neil Flambé, a 14-year old chef who has people lined up to get into this restaurant. Not only is he a good chef, but he also likes to solve mysteries in his spare time. The first book of the series is called ‘Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders’, it opens with Marco Polo on his deathbed in Venice, then swoops ahead to the present to the theft of Marco Polo’s secret notebook, then straight to Neil’s restaurant where he is berating a fish monger on the phone for delivering a stinky salmon to him. And that’s all within the first few pages. I’m certainly not a young adult any more but I think I’m going to be hooked on Neil Flambé.

All Four Stars, by Tara Daiman

All Four Stars, by Tara Daiman

In turn, Kevin Sylvester has recommended another young adult novel that has today (July 10th) as it’s publication date and it sounds like a lot of fun. It’s called ‘All Four Stars’ by Tara Daiman. Here’s the synopsis: All Four Stars chronicles the adventures of 11-year old Gladys Gatsby, who, thanks to an unlikely series of events, suddenly becomes a professional good critic for a major New York City newspaper. Sounds like fun to me!

 

 

 

 

Angelica's Smile, by Andrea Camilleri

Angelica’s Smile, by Andrea Camilleri

Want something a little more racy? Just in time  for the summer comes another Inspector Montalbano mystery from the pen of Italian writer Andrea Camilleri called Angelica’s Smile. This time our inspector gets seduced over dinner by the Angelica in the title. And I have one more book for you that gives you some good reading as well as a bunch of Italian recipes. Donna Leon is the author of the Inspector Brunetti series of mysteries, set in Venice. Food always plays a role in the Brunetti family life and eventually people started demanding that Donna Leon supply the recipes for the meals described in her books.

 

Brunetti's Cookbook,

Brunetti’s Cookbook, by Roberta Pianaro and Donna Leon

So, Brunetti’s Cookbook is a fantastic collection of recipes put together by Roberta Pianaro, interspersed with culinary stories from the chapters of Leon’s books. I love it, and I’ve made several recipes from this book already.

On another note, Vancouver Island’s Andrew Shepherd is in the running for a $100,000 business grant from in  The Globe and Mail’s Small Business Challenge ContestHe can really use this money to grow his Vancouver Island Salt Company and he is one of four semi-finalists from across the country and you can vote for him right here.

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