Harvest time brings a yearning for comfort food

Atlantic Books Today's food editor Valerie Mansour has culled some tasty beet recipes from two new books,to bring the spirit of the season into your kitchen and offers her reviews of the latest in Atlantic Canadian food writing

Atlantic Books Today’s food editor Valerie Mansour has culled some tasty beet recipes from two new books,to bring the spirit of the season into your kitchen and offers her reviews of the latest in Atlantic Canadian food writing

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Halifax Tastes: Recipes from the Region’s Best Restaurants
with Liz Feltham, $22.95 (pb)
978-1-77108-006-4, 74 pp.
Nimbus Publishing, May 2013
Halifax Tastes
Liz Feltham has taken her knowledge from almost 10 years as restaurant critic for The Coast weekly newspaper in Halifax and compiled a collection of recipes from restaurants in the Halifax/Dartmouth area. Stunning photos—by Scott Munn—of food, local scenery and awe-inspiring architecture make it an attractive book.

It’s a brave endeavour to document the ever-changing restaurant scene; already, two of the featured restaurants are no longer, and another has moved.

But their recipes live on, as do those from other restaurants, including a simple yet beautiful Pepper Prosciutto-Wrapped Halibut with Mango Salsa from Dartmouth’s Nectar Social House, and the Armview’s yummy Manchego and Chorizo Mac ’n Cheese.

Recipes are clearly presented and methods concisely written, making even the multi-step dishes accessible. Halifax Tastes is a celebration of our impressive culinary scene.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad from Halifax Tastes: Recipes from the Region’s Best Restaurants with Liz Feltham

Roasted beet and goat cheese salad. Photo credit: Joseph Muise
Roasted beet and goat cheese salad. Photo credit: Joseph Muise

A small but innovative menu fuelled by local ingredients is the hallmark of Halifax’s Stories at the Halliburton’s offerings. In this elegant salad, chef Scott Vail uses   local red, golden and “candy-striped” (chiogga) beets.

Salad

  • 1 pound very small unpeeled
  • mixed beets
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ pound young arugula
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 ounces pistachios, peeled, roasted, and coarsely chopped

Vinaigrette

  • 10 ounces fresh orange juice
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 2½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 5 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  1. Preheat barbecue or oven to 375°F. Divide beets according to variety (to keep the red beet colour from bleeding into the others), and lay them onto separate squares of double thickness aluminum foil. Place into each package a sprig of thyme, and drizzle red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper over beets. Fold the edge of the foil and roll up to form a tight package.
  2. Roast the beets on the upper rack of the barbecue or in the oven for 45 minutes to one hour, until a skewer inserted into the package can pierce beets with only a little resistance. Remove beets from the package, allow to cool, and peel—the skins will easily slip off.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer orange juice until one quarter of its original volume. Remove from heat and add diced shallot and balsamic vinegar. Slowly, in a thin steady stream, whisk in olive oil, and then add orange zest.
  4. Dress arugula with vinaigrette and divide among the plates. Place the grilled beets around the arugula, top each salad with goat cheese and roasted pistachios, and serve.

Makes 4 appetizer-sized salads

You Can Too! Canning, Pickling, and Preserving the Maritime Harvest
by Elizabeth Peirce $19.95 (pb)
978-1-77108-024-8, 134 pp.
Nimbus Publishing, June 2013

You can too 2“It is my hope that this book will help to demystify the very human act of preserving the good things of the earth,” writes author Elizabeth Peirce. And, indeed it does.
You Can Too! explains how to deal with your own harvest—whether you’re freezing beans, canning peaches, or dehydrating kale. Information is provided on equipment, storage and techniques with handy charts and illustrations. Fun recipes include Squash Pie, Pickled Fiddleheads, and Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam.
It’s a useful book (although lacking an index) with intriguing ideas such as freezing herbs, and using the hot back window of your car as a solar dryer for fruit. It’s also a good read, and includes a chapter called “Life Preservers: Stories from the Kitchen,” featuring inspirational tales from friends on their own food preserving journeys. It’s a worthwhile trip for us all, and this is the right book to bring along.

Pickled Beets from Elizabeth Peirce’s You Can Too! Canning, Pickling, and Preserving the Maritime Harvest

Beets are among the most versatile of vegetables. Easy to grow, they sprout quickly and their greens, when small, make a lovely addition to salads, while bigger greens can be steamed and eaten like cooked spinach. The beets themselves are wonderful pickled. Keep the basic proportions of water to sugar to vinegar, found in the recipe that follows, to pickle any number of beets.

  • 10-12 beets
    2 cups beet water
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
    Spices for seasoning (optional; see step 4)
  1. Scrub your beets and trim away their tops and long tails. Keep little beets (two inches or less in diameter) whole, but cut larger ones in half. Put them in a large stockpot and boil until the beets are tender (a poke with a fork should tell the tale). Drain, reserving the liquid (now beet juice!) and give your beets a dunk in a bowl of ice water to loosen their skins—a messy job, but worth the trouble.
  2. In a saucepan, boil together 2 cups beet water, 1 cup white sugar, and 1 cup white or apple cider vinegar.
  3. Pack peeled beets into pint or quart jars and pour hot brine over them, leaving an inch of headspace.
  4. Pickled beet lovers all seem to have a favourite spice to accompany the basic brine: mine was always mixed pickling spice—about a teaspoon of it in each pint jar or two teaspoons per quart. Others prefer caraway, onion, garlic, even fenugreek. Try one spice in each bottle and see which you prefer—labeling jars is always a good idea.
  5. Seal jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes per pint, or 20 minutes per quart.

Makes about 2 pints

Maritime Seafood: Chowders, Soups and More
by Chef Paul Lucas $19.95 (pb)
978-1-894838-94-8, 88 pp.
Acorn Press, July 2013

Maritime Seafood

If you’re looking for enticing seafood recipes to impress your dinner guests, this is the book for you. Maritime Seafood includes Cajun Shellfish Gumbo and Root Vegetable Stew with Mussels. Chef Paul Lucas also takes the expected regional seafood recipes and provides a twist: Seafood Chowder with Seasoning Variations, Potato Corn Chowder with Sautéed Scallops, and Potato Leek Soup with Haddock.

The author covers the basics by discussing at length how to make basic brown and white stocks—not just seafood or shellfish based, but by using pork, beef, chicken and vegetables as well. The sauce chapter includes an appealing Puréed Fruit Sauce with Caribbean fruit and spices.

Although there’s lots of useful information here, the recipe introductions and procedures are often unnecessarily long-winded and repetitive. But it’s an attractive book with photographs of Prince Edward Island scenery and lobster traps, and seafood dishes to inspire you.

Looking for more food reviews from Valerie? Try these:

Written By

Valerie Mansour combines her love of food and books as our food section editor. Based in Halifax, she works as a writer, editor and documentary film researcher.

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