I’m always excited to see our new Go Cooking sessions but this time it feels like there is a real bonanza: along with two of our tried and true favorites who never let us down — Chef Ken LeFebour from Nellie James Gourmet to Go and Chef Mark Farrugia from La Piazza Allegra — there are six chefs who are entirely new to me. I have eaten in some of their establishments, but I’m looking forward to seeing them in action, an interesting and enlightening experience that always leads to some surprises.
I must say, I was taken aback when a food truck appeared as part of our “Chef’s Table Sessions.” But then I did a bit of research on the Chef, Jonny Blonde, and found out that he is known for his fire-grilled meats, bold sauces and homemade flatbread; that he makes his own dough and sauces; that he previously worked for Cumbrae and was head chef for the Dundas location before acquiring his own business. Aha — now I get it!
Jonny was born in Spain, apparently, although he grew up in Hamilton — and so we are going to have him making paella one of the great, classic dishes of Valencia. There are many different versions of paella and this one sounds particularly scrumptious with chicken, chorizo and shrimp. And — oops — I’m afraid that this evening is already sold out. But you can still check out the food available from Jonny Blonde’s food truck and find out where the truck is going to be from the website: http://www.jonnyblonde.com
I’m happily anticipating talking to the chefs because they are such varied group this season. For instance, I imagine that the rigours of running a food truck business would be quite different from the challenges posed by creating menus for the Hamilton Convention Centre or a large hotel restaurant such as Chagall’s in the Sheraton or Baci in the C Hotel. Chef Jeremy Barrett (Hamilton Convention Centre), Chef Robert Roberge (Chagall’s) and Chef John Taubenberger (Baci) will be proving the lie to that tired old adage that hotel food is usually boring. Just look at the menus, for example: roasted red pepper and bocconcini-stuffed chicken breast (Chef Jeremy Barrett); deconstructed lamb Wellington (Chef John Taubenberger); poached pear in port wine with star anise and candied orange slice and mocha ice cream with berries (Chef Robert Roberge.) And we also seem to have a chef, this time, who isn’t attached to a particular restaurant. Nick Scime is listed as a chef/educator and his story is very intriguing. Nick was Community Development Business Consultant to the City of Hamilton in another life. On retirement he did his chef’s training, but his main recommendation, I would say, is that he really loves to cook. So, you see, there may be hope for all of us.
And I should just mention that two of our featured chefs are from restaurants that are taking part in Localicious. (La Piazza Allegra and Chagall’s) Localicious is an annual festive event in downtown Hamilton in which a variety of restaurants offer prix fixe menus with an emphasis on locally grown or raised food. This year it takes place from September the 19th to October 12th. Localicious provides great value and if you are interested in participating, the website is http://www.downtownlocalicious.org
Just a note on another brand new restaurant on our list. Cascata is in Carlisle and has been generating a whole lot of buzz. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful, century old home and bills itself as serving “rustic Italian food with a twist”. And yes, there is a natural spring and waterfall (“cascata” in Italian) nearby. The owner is a former championship cyclist, Angela Checchia. The chef is Kim Jeejeebhoy, who studied at Hamilton’s Liaison College. I’m always particularly interested in the strong women who make it in the male-dominated world of chefdom and so am really looking forward to talking to Chef Kim. Stay tuned.
And since we don’t have any recipes yet from our featured chefs, here’s a little recipe for pesto that doesn’t require buying those tiny golden nuggets of pine nuts. It does have a somewhat different flavour but – hey — how can you go completely wrong with garlic and Parmesan and olive oil?
Basil Sunflower Seed Pesto
from Bon Appetit, June, 2013
4 cups coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1) Purée the basil with sunflower seeds, the oil, the Parmesan the butter, the garlic and salt to taste, in a food processor.
2) Transfer the pesto to a small bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent discoloration. The pesto keeps covered and chilled for 2 weeks. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
I use this with linguine, although any kind of long pasta noodles probably would be fine. I like to add a bit of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste just before serving.