Tag Archive for top chef canada

Vegan Scallops

I am Top Chef obsessed. Always have been. I’ve watched them all. My favorite, of course, were Top Chef Canada, because I loved seeing my local chefs (whose work I was a big fan of) shine on a national level.

The Top Chef Canada franchise only lasted 4 seasons, sadly, but just recently, they brought it back, with Top Chef Canada All Stars.

vegan scallops

A couple years back, I got to attend a Top Chef event that featured the food of the ladies who had competed. One of my faves on the show was Lauren Marshall, who has been the only vegan, as far as I know, to compete. There was this one episode where she made a vegan scallop dish, and we got to try it that night. It was amazing.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when I got invited to a lunch at Diva at the Met. Now, we have some great restaurants here in Vancouver, but weirdly, Diva was a place I had never eaten at, and upon reflection, I’m not sure why. The food was wonderful, and they represent all the things I love: they cook locally, in season, and they strive to make as much as possible in-house (including these incredible chocolates made by their pastry chef!).

scallops diva at the met

One dish that was served at the lunch was a scallop atop a kind of salsa made from avocado, hearts of palm and cucumber. I was determined to veganize it.

The key to vegan scallops are King Mushrooms. I had to go to a few places before I found them, but I eventually found them at a little Korean produce store in my ‘hood. When you slice the stems into rounds, they look exactly like scallops. They even have that slightly rubbery bite that you get with scallops. They are dead ringers.

Given that rhubarb is so in season right now, I wanted to incorporate it into the recipe as well.

You could serve this on a platter (like the Diva version) or as I did, in individual portions on spoons. Either way, it’s an elegant starter for your next party. In fact, I think I’ll serve this at my book launch!

Shameless plug: my cookbook, Aquafabulous!: 100+ Egg-Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba is now in bookstores! You can also order it from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com and Chapters-Indigo.

Vegan Scallops with avocado salsa

Vegan Scallops

Ingredients

  • 4 king mushrooms
  • 1-2 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (preferably apple cider)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 1/2 cucumber, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 1/4 cup edamame beans or fresh corn
  • fresh chives or green onion

Method:

  1. Quick pickle the rhubarb. In a small saucepan on the stove, heat together the water, vinegar, sugar and salt until they are all melted together. Bring just to the boil. Place the rhubarb in a heat-proof bowl and pour the pickling liquid over it and allow it to stand while you do the rest of your prep.
  2. Chop the avocado and cucumber, and place in another bowl. Add the edamame and stir well.
  3. Top and tail the king mushrooms. Set aside the caps and ends for another use. Cut the mushroom in half and then each half into halves, giving you 4 circles of mushroom stem.
  4. Heat a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, and add oil to the pan. It’ important that the pan and oil are hot to get a good sear. Place the mushrooms into the pan, and allow to cook for about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and a little garlic powder. Once they are caramelized on one side, flip, and allow to cook to a similar doneness on the other side.
  5. Drain the rhubarb, reserving some of the pickling liquid. Add the rhubarb, a little of the pickling liquid and some olive oil to your salsa, and stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Place the salsa on a plate in a pile, and then top with “scallops.” Garnish with sliced green onions or chives.

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Earls Fall Menu

A couple months back, I had a truly dream-come-true experience.

I’m a huge fan of Top Chef. I’ve seen every episode of every American and Canadian Top Chef, and I’ve watched a bunch of the spinoffs, too (the Canadian version, sadly, has been cancelled, but Top Chef Chicago started last night). I’ve had the opportunity to interview and eat the food of former contestants like Trevor Bird, Curtis Luk, and S3 winner, Matthew Stowe.

The Women of Top Chef Canada

But in August, I got to attend a fundraiser put on by Les Dames d’Escoffier, and it was hosted at Earl’s Yaletown location, in The Loft. The food that night was prepared by the women of the last season of Top Chef: Dawn Doucette, Lauren Marshall, Karin Moulin, Gabriela Neda, and Shelley Robinson. The food was wonderful, but was was more amazing was getting to chat with these awesome women chefs.

Two of the gals are locals–Shelley is the Executive Chef for Coast Hotels, and Dawn is the Product Development Chef for Earls.

Earls Chef Dawn Doucette

Last week, I got invited back to the scene of the crime, along with some of Vancouver’s Food Bloggerati, to preview Earls Fall Menu.

First off, let’s start with cocktails. There were three, including a twist on a Moscow Mule, called Cabin Fever (garnished with a pine cone! Adorbs!), the Bee’s Knees, served in a bear-shaped glass (this one went down very easy) and Clover Club #4, which comes with a stencilled message of fabulousness.

Earls Salmon Salad

The starter was a Salmon Salad: twice-glazed with a Szechuan lime glaze, alongside a slaw made with soba noodles, zucchini, carrots, and red pearl onions, dressed with a tamarind-sesame dressing. It came nestled in a swirl of cilantro-yogurt sauce. I was most impressed with how juicy and perfectly cooked the salmon was. It’s tough to serve 45 perfectly-cooked portions at once.

Earls Spatchcock Chicken

Next up: Spatchcock Chicken. This was my favourite (other than dessert, natch!) course of the night. It included what was, again, an incredibly juicy half chicken, with a bit of a spicy glaze. It also came paired with a slaw. I was less crazy about the miso sauce–it was a little intense all on its own.

There was another meat course, as well, served family-style: steak with asparagus, salad and truffled fries. Fantastic in its simplicity, and I could have eaten the fries all night.

Earls Burger

We also got a preview of two new burgers on the menu. The first was a two-handed, hard-core, meat-lover’s dream, with two patties, mushroom jam, bacon, and then draped in layers of Earl’s own, house-made, smoked beer cheddar. There’s something for vegheads, though, as well: a Mediterranean falafel burger, garnished with baba ganoush, homemade hummus, and feta.

Earls Chocolate Bar

Finally, the crowning glory: dessert. This was simply called a Hazlenut Chocolate bar, but oh, glory be–it was so much more. I was super full by this point, but yet I still managed to eat the entire thing. The Hazlenut Bar was a thin slice of a rich chocolate ganache, but it had a crispy, light crust, which added a welcome and fantastic textural element. It sat on a pool of caramel sauce, and alongside was a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. My favourite part of the dish, however, were the dehydrated mandarins. I’ve never had anything like them before–packing the sweet citrus punch of an orange, but with the crispy texture of a chip.

Photo of Ariane Colenbrander & I by Cathy Browne, Horsing around with Don Genova

Photo of Ariane Colenbrander & I by Cathy Browne, Horsing around with Don Genova

Earls is a locally-owned joint who are doing their utmost to source local ingredients, and to create simple, delicious comfort food that makes you feel good. And their fall menu did just that.

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